Why doesn’t everyone love the theatre?!

The other day I found myself filling in a feedback questionnaire for the National Theatre – something I almost regretted choosing to do on public transport after I actually laughed out loud at the following question!

In the last four years, how many times have you seen a play in the theatre?

  • Zero
  • Once
  • Two to five times
  • Six to ten times
  • More than ten times

If only you knew National Theatre, if only you knew…!

But, some of the questions that followed were less amusing and they really got me thinking. For example, one asked me how much I agreed (from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree) with the following statements:

  1. If I book tickets for the theatre, there is a risk that I will regret it
  2. Theatre is often boring
  3. Theatre is not attractive to people similar to myself
  4. It is difficult for me to appreciate theatre
  5. The cost of theatre tickets puts me off going

Now the question is, am I someone who is so far into the “theatre is the most amazing thing on this planet” camp that I can’t see clearly or is something going seriously wrong if there are people out there who may regret booking theatre tickets?

Similarly with statements 2-4. Obviously, you can’t expect everyone to like everything in the theatre, even I have my theatre “no-goes” – *controversial thought alert* – it’s anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber! But, there are so many different types of theatre out there, surely there must be something for everyone – maybe these people just haven’t found the one for them yet?

But how do we encourage people to give theatre that chance – how do we help them to find the thing for them?

Last year I went to see Quiz, a play by James Graham based on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? coughing scandal. Now, this was always going to be a winner for me as it gave me a chance to sit on a West End stage (eeeek!) but, it had much more going for it than just that and I can remember thinking that this would be the perfect show for those who don’t usually go to the theatre. Not only did the plot feel incredibly accessible, but it also offered interaction on a level that you don’t often see in the west end.

There was a pub quiz, a chance to get up on stage and star in well-known TV quiz shows including The Price is Right and Bullseye, and a chance to help out the Millionaire contestants with Ask the Audience. Additionally, the audience could have their say on whether Charles Ingram was guilty or not guilty – the audience really were at the heart of this show.

So here it was, maybe not quite a “show for everyone” but definitely a “show for more than your average theatre goer”. And yet, despite this, I don’t imagine the theatre was packed with many new or irregular theatre goers so, how do we get them in? How do we let people know that theatre is for everyone?

For me, it feels like theatre is everywhere but, maybe that’s because I seek it out – maybe all those posters in tube stations aren’t as obvious to those who aren’t looking for their next show. So, when the next Quiz comes along, how do we shout about it? How do we say “this show is for you…and you…and you!”?

I know that not everyone is going to love theatre as much as me (and that’s probably a good thing…imagine how much more difficult it would be to get Hamilton tickets if they did!), but the world of theatre brings me so much joy that it saddens me to think that some people feel they are excluded from it.

Right, if you need me, I’ll be stood on my balcony with a megaphone telling everyone how great the theatre is…!

P.S. If you think I forgot to mention the ever important ‘The cost of theatre tickets puts me off going’, fear not, we’ll talk about that another time – I could go on for days…

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