Theatre and audience meet in the middle

From reading about a trial called Pay What You Decide that was launched by Stockton’s ARC theatre; they offered all tickets for theatre, spoken word and dance at a pay what you decided basis.

I wondered if theatre is accessible enough and if this trial was another desperate way to encourage the general public to go to the theatre. With so many theatre companies enticing the public in, whether it’s developing the programme or giving away free tickets to performances.

I worry about the theatre industry, with a survey produced by the arts council, the latest figures from this year showed that 77 per cent of adults had attended or participated in the arts at least once in the previous year. How can theatres make their shows more accessible to the public to make sure that this percentage increases? But without the risk of ruining their reputation of their company?

Challenging theatre stigma

Having been going to theatre as a member of the public and a reviewer for more than 4 years now, I always tend to see similar faces and try to encourage my non theatre goer friends if they want to see a show with me.  And their reaction is always the same; they always say that theatre isn’t for them, that it is for arty farty people like me.  Is it this sort of theatre stigma that stops people from going to see a show?

I understand that you can’t force someone to see a play and some theatres cost are pretty penny to see a show. Sadly not everyone is fortunate enough to pay for a play that they may not like in the end.  It is alright for someone like me, who has an experience in theatre and thus if I see a show from a theatre company that I have seen before, then no doubt I will see their show because I know what to expect. Maybe this is a risk that non theatre goers will have to take if theatres wish to encourage them to see a show.

Is Pay What You Decide the answer?

ARC’s Pay What You Decide trial asked the audience to book a ticket in advance but had no obligation to pay anything after the show. This meant that their theatre programme became more accessible to those who have not been able to afford it.   ARC reported in an article from The Guardian that due to this scheme, it has resulted in a 10 per cent increase in audience participation since last year when the scheme was not in action.

To me, theatre should be accessible to anyone and it is sad that there a barrios getting in the way of public who may wish to see a show for the first time. And for the theatres to be taking risks just for audiences to be attending their shows.

Maybe this is what the theatre industry needs to do, for both audience and theatre to meet in the middle to be able to make it accessible for all.