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Penn & Teller: Live. UK Tour 2017. Apollo Hammersmith.

June 28, 2017

(Seen at the performance on 25th June 2017).

Around 30 years ago, I remember seeing an American magic act on, I think, Ben Elton’s “Friday Night Live.” To a rock beat, two anarchists did a routine with one commentating as another appeared in various holes cut in a cuboid rocket-like structure. Interesting… but then they did it again… this time with clear cubes and a constant refrain of “Trap Door!” Those guys were Penn and Teller, and I was hooked instantly.

A fan for all these years, my bucket-list included seeing the duo live – and last Sunday night that box was finally ticked.

Popular enough to sell out 4 nights in Glasgow and Manchester, plus these 6 at the biggest theatre in London, the audience they draw really is of all ages. Forming a warm bond with the audience to open the show, a terrific youngster of 8 was called to the stage for a P&T version of “Rabbit from a Hat.” Said rabbit ultimately fared far better than one dealt with by an unusually chatty – though inaudible – Teller later, it must be said.

Over two hours of pure fun followed, as the pair presented illusions recent and classic from their repertoire, interspersed with stories and amusing digs at targets like the British Magic Circle and the American “Saturday Night Live” audience. The latter protested in droves at their use of a snake in the old “cut rope” trick (we get that one, ‘carnival geek’ style), but apparently cared not one whit about Teller’s drowning the following week.

A lesson in how not to choose an online password involved five members of the audience and not only confounded the rest of us, but also a magician’s assistant I happened to chat to a few days later. She admitted knowing how it was done… usually… but nothing matched that from my description this time…

And that’s the glory of them. The Heston Blumenthals of magic, endlessly innovative and always unique – even as their 8 year old selves doing the old “cup and ball” routine (and that isn’t a euphemism).

Come the interval (during which Teller likes to walk his cow, according to the video screens), the audience was unusually reluctant to leave. Normally, as the lights go up, there is a stampede for the bar / toilets or both (he gets the drinks, she makes room for them, is my observation). That night, the audience instead remained seated, each grasping two halves of a playing card, comparing them with their neighbours, those in front, and those behind.

Having been asked to choose 4 cards and a cup from a bin in the foyer before the show, Penn had just ended the half by having us all shuffling the cards face down, tearing them in two, exchanging one half of one card with a neighbour, shuffling again, putting one half in a pocket, shuffling and discarding random numbers of card halves into a cup until only a single half was left in a hand. Reach into your pocket for the other half…. remember, the magicians had been on the stage at all times, miles from your seat… and… everybody turn over their cards… Yes! The pieces match! 3300 people simultaneously gasping, “What The F…?!!!” Mathematical, probably, but we swapped card halves, remember…

If their big trick after the interval didn’t go entirely according to plan (mobile phone tricks seem doomed) the second half was as much a pleasure, with the beautiful “shadow cut flower” and less aesthetic but thrilling “Teller Trap” finale. You will never make a sandwich in the same way again.

Most of all, though, and the bucket-list tick of bucket-list ticks, was finally seeing “Miser’s Dream” performed live. For more years than I remember, I’ve loved this sensitive, silent illusion, with an ending that confirms the value of life truly is the triumph of living gold over cold dead silver. My all-time equal favourite illusion (Paul Daniel’s “Magic Kettle” being the other), and without peer.

I think that this is the heart of my hero-worship of this pair. That philosophical humanity underscores all that they do, and they simply love to be a part of making life just that bit more wonderful and inexplicable for all. The sheer humility, perhaps their greatest trade mark, shines through in their live show.

From the very, very reasonably priced souvenirs (most “tours” try and make as much as they can; here, for example, a programme was a West-End matching £8, but with better content) through the unforgettable evening of hard-work and originality – for which they publically thank their whole team – and ending with an open-ended “meet and greet” time in front of the theatre after the show for anyone wishing to stay, Penn and Teller are not just magicians at the very pinnacle of their profession, but people choosing to live at very pinnacle of life.

I’m hoping they return to the UK soon, and the line for tickets starts here.

 

Pure magic, unmissable.
5 glittering stars.

Guest Blog: The Joy of Repeat Visits, by Tonyloco

June 21, 2017

ON THE TOWN (15 June, 2017, Open Air Theatre): My third visit to On the Town in as many weeks was more enjoyable than my second, which was more enjoyable than my first and this prompts me to set down some thoughts about the pleasures to be had from seeing a favourite musical several times, or sometimes a lot more than that!

My serious theatre-going began in Sydney towards the end of 1948 when I was  aged eleven with several visits to Annie Get Your Gun at the Theatre Royal starring the American actress Evie Hayes. I believe I saw it six times, including once or twice when it returned to Sydney the following year to the Empire Theatre after its tour to Melbourne, Adelaide and the other Aussie capital cities. I was totally won over by the very generous, big-hearted performance of Miss Hayes in the title role and I just loved all the music.  I had a copy of the piano vocal score (I still have it) and I used to play it through literally from cover to cover, sometimes inviting the neighbours in for a sing-song around the piano.  I was actually quite precocious at playing the piano, thanks to my early training at the Shefte College of Music where one learned the basic chords and how to play them under the melody line, and Irving Berlin’s songs in Annie are all quite straightforward and easy to play, even for a clever eleven-year-old!

Annie was followed in Sydney by most of the other big Broadway hits of the time including Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, Paint your Wagon, South Pacific etc., all of which I saw once or perhaps twice but my next big fixation was probably Kiss Me, Kate (1952), of which I couldn’t get enough. This was strongly cast with the charismatic American actor Hayes Gordon as Fred Graham, Joy Turpin as Lilli Vanessi and the wonderful Maggie Fitzgibbon as Lois Lane and I responded strongly to Cole Porter’s sophisticated score. Also around this time Evie Hayes starred in Call Me Madam, which was where I first discovered the actors’ trick of corpsing on purpose. There is a scene where Mrs Sally Adams, the newly-appointed American Ambassador to Lichtenburg, is wearing a formal evening dress with a long train and in practising how to walk backwards out of the presence of royalty she manages to get herself tangled up in the train. The first time I saw the show this scene was hilarious and one got the impression that it was funnier at that performance than it had ever been before and the actors themselves couldn’t help laughing. But when I saw the show several more times, exactly the same thing happened and I realised the whole thing was rehearsed and planned, even though it seemed totally spontaneous.  I can now spot this kind of planned corpsing and can thoroughly enjoy it when it is well done, as in ‘You’re timeless to me’ in Hairspray or despise it, as when it happened several times in One Man, Two Guv’nors.

Since coming to London in 1960, I have had periods of intense theatre-going but also long periods of abstinence, particularly when I was playing the piano for old time music hall and variety. Throughout most of the early time I usually saw shows I liked more than once, generally because I just wanted to enjoy them again. I saw Fings Ain’t Wot They Used t’Be six times and it was always great. Another show I saw several times was Irma la Douce mainly because I liked the show a lot but none of the leading ladies I saw seemed to be able to survive the gruelling vocal demands of the role. By the early 1960s the ladies seemed to change fairly frequently and it was not until about the fourth viewing (and fourth Irma), that I felt full justice was being done to the role. I started off with the original (1958) Irma, Elizabeth Seal, but by March 1960 she was almost voiceless. I know I also saw Shani Wallace and Mary Preston and possibly somebody else as well.

Then there is a long gap through my music hall years until what is fairly much the present time. In that long interim period I would usually see musicals just once, even the ones that were sensationally good like the National Theatre’s Oklahoma! and Carousel but I then re-discovered that there was a great deal of pleasure from going to see favourite shows over and over. One example of this was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, of which I didn’t see the original cast of Michael Ball, Brian Blessed and co, but went to it for the first time when I discovered one of my music hall buddies called Graham Hoadly was in it, playing several small roles and covering several of the larger parts like the Toymaker and Lord Scrumptious. I was fascinated by this rather complex, sprawling show and soon found that there were always cast changes happening with new stars joining, or covers going on (all of which Graham kept me informed about) and even the structure of the show would change. Both of the Strallen girls appeared as Truly Scrumptious, sometimes I think they just swapped among themselves unofficially. The two comics (Boris and Goran) used to embroider their scenes beyond recognition and I suspect Jeremy Sammes the writer or Adrian Noble the director from time to time would insist on getting them back to the authorised script because their scenes would suddenly change all over again. And there would also be changes in the basic show, for example a funny little scene involving one of the dogs who would sit still in the middle of the stage while one of the comics was firing a rifle, just suddenly disappeared and was never seen again.  There were also several different teams of dogs of different breeds and one never knew exactly what they were going to do at any performance. Graham told me that one particular team of quite small dogs were extremely obnoxious and the actors hated them! And the final atrocity was the complete deletion of the prologue showing the car race where the car got smashed up. This was near the end of the London run and was apparently dropped to simplify the show in preparation for the Broadway production. They needn’t have bothered as the show ran for only just over 300 performances on Broadway and lost most of its $15 million investment. Come to think of it, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was probably unique in the number of changes I saw made to the basic show during the later part of its run, although I bitterly regretted the serious amount of pruning to the script that was done quite early in the run of Mary Poppins to make it more palatable to very small children who shouldn’t have been in the theatre anyway!

Another great favourite was Spamalot, where there were occasional cast changes to see, but the main reason for repeated viewings was that I kept spotting more details of the jokes and the humour on each new viewing.  Perhaps this just proves that I am a bit dumb, but I kept finding more and more to laugh at each time I saw it.  This pleasure of watching a joke being set up was also very evident in the pantomime Mother Goose at Hackney where knowing what was coming greatly enhanced the pleasure of my second viewing as I watched the characters preparing the gags in advance and teasing out the laughs.

Another element that sometimes repays repeated visits is the quality of the orchestra. The production of Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly had a terrific orchestra playing what I thought was a better orchestration, with the right amount of brass, than the National Theatre version which sounded far too heavy on reeds (saxophones mainly). I returned to the front row of the Piccadilly several times, not only to enjoy some cast changes (all very successful) but also just to revel in the very theatrical sound of the orchestra.  The same thing is true right now with my fixations on 42nd Street and On the Town where it is the sound of the orchestra that affords me as much pleasure as the other elements of the productions.  I should also say that I was very impressed with the sound of the orchestras at Wimbledon recently for both Cats and The Addams Family, although I saw each of them only once.

Of course, sometimes I want to see a production more than once simply because it is a top class realisation of a very good show and into this category I would put Ian Talbot’s recent production of The Boy Friend, as well as his HMS Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance, all in Regent’s Park, and La Cage aux Folles when Douglas Hodge was in it. For these shows, as with On the Town and 42nd Street at present, I have been able on repeated visits just to wallow in every element of each of the productions and get a very complete kind of enjoyment of what I have decided at the grand old age of 80 is probably my favourite form of theatrical entertainment, pace Maria Callas, Jussi Björling, Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Otto Klemperer, Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein and the rest of the many iconic classical artists I have seen and enjoyed performing serious classical repertoire throughout my life. I guess Irving Berlin was right when he said in Annie Get Your Gun: ‘There no business like show business’!

 

Tony
17 June 2017

 

Tony is a retired musician and musical director, who has worked extensively in the West End.

Bat Out Of Hell – London Coliseum

June 14, 2017

(seen at the performance on 13th June 2017)

Once upon a time, around 20 years ago now, a show called “Grease,” and a show called “Cats” probably met on a street called “Broadway.” In a short time, they decided to get married. They gave each other a “special cuddle” and, well, 18 years later this is the result.

And I’m not really joking.

It’s 2100, and an accident has left a group kids underground in the big city, stuck permanently at that age. “Peter Pan” style there’s “the boy who never grew up,” Strat (Andrew Polec) and sidekick Tink (Aran Macrae) to head up this gang.

Above, in Falco Tower, Strat’s obsession Raven (Christina Bennington) is about to reach her real 18th Birthday with warring parents dictator Falco (Rob Fowler) determined to keep her out of Strat’s reach, and rockin’ wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) keeping herself firmly in both camps.

Like “Grease” this is full of that special energy only those who are 18 forever could have, plus all the angst that goes with it. Like “Cats,” this a wafer-thin plot which holds strong and true for the most part, across almost three hours, as a hugely talented ensemble play on a stonkingly clever Jon Bausor set. A guitar fret is a tower block, there’s plenty of projection work from Finn Ross that brings it all to life and also one of the funniest “fourth wall breaking” visual jokes the monkey has seen in years.

To get the faults out of the way, the second half could do with a little more plot – except that to actually cut scenes would mean losing some terrific songs and great dance numbers. That one is a bit of an insoluble. There is a fair amount of strong language too, not all of it required. On the other hand, the fairly racy material renders the show unsuitable for under 14s anyway, so, leave it in. Oh, and one quip was filthy, but hilarious, anyway.

Back to the great stuff.

There’s enough talented eye-candy to satisfy all. Mr Polec and Miss Bennington are sufficient not only to tickle the fancy, but massively gifted singers and dancers too, with strong enough acting skills to get us invested in their characters even when the plot veers a little unsteadily. Both their solo vocals are show-stoppers and they truly drive the tribal aspect in the big numbers involving equally accomplished fellow ensemble members. Aran Macrae in particular deserves a note as Tink, as does Danielle Steers as tribal wise-person Zahara in a pivotal supporting role.

Excellent work too from Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, particularly as they re-live their youth and later as they reveal very different aspects of their characters – again finding depth where none really exists in the script.

If, like me, you only really know “Bat Out of Hell” – given a terrific explosive treatment here – and “Anything For Love,” don’t worry. The rest of the songs, “Heaven Can Wait,” “You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and more (annoyingly, the programme doesn’t list them, and I’m not a big enough fan to instantly know) all land as if written for the theatre in the first place. Better still, though I used earplugs, for most they are at a volume where words are clear and the bass is exciting enough to shake the audience “just for the hell of it.”

Put simply, a show that has even me “up and dancing” at the end has to have something special. It’s “Batty As Hell,” true – insubstantial on the story, but so high-energy, with a gloriously fun cast doing amazing things with their talent that it’s pretty much irresistible for anyone seeking a hard-rocking night out. Interestingly, during the interval this middle aged conservative bloke happened to get chatting to a much facially-pierced, crop-cut late teenage lady. We were both as hyped as each other on the show, and both enjoyed our brief and excited conversation, which I think says it all. It crosses the barriers and makes everyone’s world just that bit better.

Easy 4 stars for now, and if they sorted out the second half, would have been 5.

 

Oh, and as a coda, if (as they were on my night) they are handing out audience surveys to complete, do. Return it after the show to the box office and you get a free poster – the type you see on the Underground Station escalators. Brilliant souvenir and £15 cheaper than the print they sell in the gift shop. Worth knowing, I think.

 

For seating advice, in addition to the stuff on Theatremonkey, I would go for the dress circle and upwards, for overall view. If in the stalls, around row G back, gives the best view. If further forward in the stalls, then centre block first, then “low numbers” side of the auditorium if possible in the side blocks. There are relatively cheaper seats on the side blocks of row A that are worth a look – take the one closest to the centre aisle first, the rest on the “low numbers” side after that, and then the rest on the high numbers side. Same goes for rows B and C cheaper seats behind, too, I feel.

“Lettice & Lovage” Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

June 7, 2017

(Seen at the preview performance on 14th May 2017).

This revival elicits exactly the same feeling as flicking through the TV channels and happening upon a sitcom from “way back when,” that you loved and much remembered. You pause to watch and realise that, like yourself, it has developed a patina that only time can bring. It’s just as you remember it, but now it’s a little slice of history, and what was once “cutting edge and biting” well, we know now how things turned out.

The themes of Peter Shaffer’s 1987 genius comedy about architecture and those who care about the loss of it in London were once relevant. As is the idea of demonstrating the worst of it. It is ironic therefore, that the central and most reviled building in the play is, in fact, gone. And recently, too. A dream achieved (though between us, I rather liked it).

What’s left are two women in an era where two people could be friends without any other assumption being made. Two eccentric women, again, in an era where Britain was full of them, without any other assumption being made. Best of all, the two women here, one Felicity Kendal (Lettice Douffet) and one Maureen Lipman (Loue Schoen) are absolutely definitive of the time they inhabit on stage.

Kendal’s opening tour-guide becomes ever-more inventive; her quest for bringing the dramatic past into the present extending even into her home life, with disastrous consequences. Lipman’s trade mark ‘stiff-mask hiding immeasurably deep wells of lunacy’ style is put to excellent use as a starchy boss is drawn into the maddest and most fun of schemes.

Sound work from Petra Markham (Miss Framer) as a secretary downtrodden but never trodden in, and Sam Dastor (Mr Bardolph) a solicitor who treads where angels fear… and risks complete immersion in a world less than sane. A mention too for Michael Chance (Surly Man), whom no tour guide will wish to encounter.

Robert Jones provides a remarkable stately home and squalid 80s basement flat on a tiny stage, Paul Pyant believable subterranean murk and Gregory Clarke has great fun with 80s electronic sounds.

Trevor Nunn keeps things motoring, the difficult duolog of act two almost entirely successful, given the excessive weight the author expects it to carry.

If this is difficult simply because it is too recent to be “classic” and too old to be “contemporary,” then it should be regarded as one of those times that a bottle is opened to see how it is maturing. A glass or two will convince that all the required elements are present, and a further maturation of 20 years will see it reveal new flavours, given time.

Meanwhile, quaff the refreshment on offer. Those who remember that period, in particular, will feel the benefit of the nostalgic hit if they do.

“Ballroom” – Waterloo East Theatre

May 24, 2017

(seen at the afternoon performance on 21st May 2017)

I was ecstatic to learn that I would, after many years, have a chance to see one of my favourite “Broadway failures” (116 performances in 1979) on stage. Owning both the original cast album and original source film “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom,” to say I was anticipating this one was an understatement. I’m delighted to say, Gerald Armin and his team didn’t disappoint.

It’s a simple story. Bea Asher (Jessica Martin) is a widow selling the accumulation of a lifetime in her junk store. Friend Angie (Natalie Moore-Williams) suggests she meet “The Very Nice Crowd” at the Stardust Ballroom. There she finds friendship and more, as sister-in-law Helen (Olivia Maffett) looks on disapprovingly.

A slim book holds enough surprises to have the person next to me (hello, Karen) gasp “I didn’t see that coming”) at one point, and Armin, Nancy Kettle and Roman Berry keep the show whirling with an energetic cast of senior actors directed and choreographed to give us full benefit of their experience and talent.

There’s beautiful songs too. One of the two younger performers, Danielle Morris as Ballroom Singer Marlene delivers “Dreams” to a level that deserves a single release, and is a young performer to watch for sure. Doubling as Bea’s daughter Diane and paired with Ballroom Singer counterpart Nathan (Adam Anderson) – himself doubling as Bea’s son David – the duo too are quite a team – “One By One” another particularly successful song delivery.

The show belongs, though, to Ms Martin. Broadway classic “Fifty Percent” is given the full hundred percent treatment, and a perfectly judged “Monroe” regeneration is entrancing. Better yet, Ms Martin finds the transition from shell-shocked widow to fiercely independent lady over just two short hours and fills the theatre with a compelling determined gentleness.

It is small wonder postman Alfred Rossi (Cory Peterson) falls for her – his Italian American charm genuine. In counterpoint, Oliva Maffett’s judgemental Helen could have been over-done, but the actor finds a concern that balances to perfection the domineering aspect.

Supporting roles are all beautifully done by the ensemble. Of particular note for me were Dudley Rogers as Harry, Gerry Tebbutt’s obsessive Scooter and Colette Kelly as Shirley, to mention just three cameos that add to the pleasure of the show.

For those who have seen the original film, there are good points in that a lot of the “family” stuff has been stripped away, speeding up the action and helping focus on the ballroom itself – nicely represented here, incidentally, by Paul O’Shaughnessy’s simple parquet floor set.

Alas, there are also a few disappointments. I already knew that the best numbers in the film had gone, and yearned for them to return. Also, the ending is very different on stage, presumably because Broadway sends crowds out upbeat (the original film ending is below, for those who want to know).

Luckily, here, it’s satisfyingly enough staged not to matter – but I do wonder if one day a “revisical” might be in order, as this production proves the show to work far better than anyone could imagine.

If it were to happen, this is the cast to work with. For me and the audience last Sunday, it was an enchanting way to pass a couple of hours, and I strongly urge anyone who cares about people, particularly the generation that brought them into the world and loves them, not to miss the chance to see this. I wish you all a waltz.

Four stars.

 

ORIGINAL ENDING. SPOILER WARNING. In both this show and the original film, Bea is crowned “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom,” the most popular lady there, who will act as Social Hostess for the next year. On stage, the story ends with her and Alfred taking to the stage to receive the tiara.

In the original film, though, they go back to her home, and they kiss “goodnight” and will meet in the morning. Next morning, Alfred brings breakfast to her house. Bea does not answer the door so he goes inside. Bea is there, in bed… having passed peacefully away in the night.

Now, wouldn’t that have made a great ending to a musical?!

 

 

 

 

No blog next week, but back on the 7th June, I hope.

“The Treatment” – Almeida Theatre

May 17, 2017

(Seen at the afternoon performance on 13th May 2017).

In times of “fake news,” when reality and truth are two different things and, as Richard Littlejohn puts it “everybody is the star of their own movie,” this 1993 Martin Crimp play should feel more relevant than ever. Certainly the quality of both dialogue and the story he tells make the Almeida’s choice of revival entirely justifiable.

Sadly, I’m not so sure they can justify either Giles Cadle’s designs nor Lyndsey Turner’s direction. Whichever of them opted for chopping a play about cinema, that required a fast-flowing cinematic stating, into scenes with long (and, from the front row, exceptionally noisy) scene changes between needs to be on the wrong end of a solid silver fork (in joke).

Anne (Aisling Loftus), a somewhat simple young woman tells her story – in all senses of the word, perhaps, tantalizingly – to slick movie operators Andrew (Julian Ovenden) and wife Jennifer (Indira Varma). This revolting pair of artistic parasites who lack manners and morals as well as talent, instantly begin twisting everything. Actor friend John (Gary Beadle, beautifully balanced performance) and ex-receptionist punch-bag Nicky (impressive Ellora Torchia) reap the success.

Forgotten playwright Clifford (Ian Gelder, in an unforgiving role he makes instead unforgettable) pays the heaviest price for becoming ensnared, with Anne’s husband Simon (multi-faceted work from Matthew Needham) also ultimately a loser on all levels. A mention too for Almeida regular Hara Yannas as a long-suffering waitress and Ben Onwukwe’s Taxi Driver who has the heavy metaphor-lifting work to do, and does it very well. Also a cast from the Community Company, filling the stage as required.

For this is all metaphors. We are all driving blind to destinations that don’t exist. Our stories don’t always ring true and others will shape events to their own ends. The innocent suffer, there are accidents and exploitation, with moments of revenge worthy of Shakespeare – neatly mined to good effect by the author.

Unfortunately, with long breaks and clumsy changes of scene, much of the impact is lost. This is about lives crashing together, bits flying off and randomness. When it happens at the walking pace seen here, with time to ponder and indeed drift off the odd scene that isn’t immediately impactful, but has later bearing, the audience are left wondering what all the fuss is about.

Trust me, stay to the end, and it will hit just how good the writing and performances are. Sadly, though, this is very much a two star production of a four star play. Fingers crossed a small studio with less budget but an equally talented cast host the next revival – I’ll be there if I can. And that’s the truth.

Is Theatre the new “Pop Concert” when it comes to tickets?

May 10, 2017

A remark from a colleague got me thinking, as did a recent indignant exchange on www.theatreboard.co.uk.

Both regular readers of this blog will remember that back in January I compiled a page of tips for getting “Hamilton” tickets. A few weeks later, a reader of that page informed me that those same tips helped her get some much sought after “Lady Gaga” tickets at the O2 Arena, simply following the same technique I outlined for the far smaller Victoria Palace Theatre event.

More recently, “Follies” and “Mosquitoes” at the National Theatre left hundreds unhappy that the best seats were gone and many performances “sold out” before the general public got anywhere near them. Even those like myself, who “know the tricks” and have the lowest rung of “priority booking” membership found very little choice. I was lucky on “Follies” with a seat I was pretty happy with; “Mosquitoes,” well, not terrible but not the greatest. Anyway…

I wonder if it all ties in with several articles I’ve read about economists noting we are spending less on items and more on “experiences,” which all the above productions are / will be. If that’s so, there are now more people than ever chasing fewer and fewer tickets. Good for theatres, not so great for the wider public.

Personally, I’m sceptical. The most vocal complainers about “not getting seats” are not regular theatregoers who support a venue, just those chasing “fashion,” I fear. If they “feel slighted because the system is stacked against them” it’s bad for the theatre industry’s image, yes, but rather ignores those who stand by it ‘thick and thin’ in support.

Rather like the fans who follow a group from pub gigs to Wembley Stadium, or football fans team from Hackney Marshes to, well, Wembley Stadium again, maybe us “regulars” are now experiencing the same thing from our plush tip-up seats.

If we are, is there an answer? Rather like pop and football fans, there are “club memberships” to buy, which help a lot gaining access to the best seats first. We can hardly complain about others wanting to join in, because we are not enough to keep a show running long in ourselves… but is it so wrong to wish to be front of the queue as a reward for loyalty?

Perhaps theatres should work a little harder to equalise distribution of tickets, but if there is a way to balance demand from both regulars and newcomers without upsetting one and putting the other partly in the hands of the “secondary market” (ticket touts), I’m not sure that there is. Longer runs, perhaps – hard with a star in the cast – so maybe have a second star ready to take over? Bigger theatres – but they have to be filled when the circus has moved on?

Tricky, and one to ponder, I think.