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Conspiracy and Controversy

June 8, 2011

They seem to be the theme at the moment. With the British MI6 Secret Service hacking in to any website that might reveal ‘something better kept secret’ and placing cupcake recipes there instead, this week I really dare not reveal the names of the two actors covered by a super injunction, just in case somebody from ‘spooks’ division is reading this. Still, who’d have thought that take 200 grams of self-raising flour, 2 eggs, 100 grams of sugar. Mix in a bowl and place in small containers in 180 degree oven (pre-heated for 30 minutes) for 20 minutes. Cool and ice using 50 grams icing sugar mixed with 20 drops water would have got together. I never would have seen them as a couple for sure.

Anyway, a couple of other perennially controversial subjects in the theatrical world caught my eye this week.

The first is the old saw of “ticket touting.” Tickets for the 2012 Olympics cannot legally be re-sold outside of the official re-selling website. For those like myself in the 55% who didn’t get any tickets at all (not worried, didn’t expect to, but enjoyed the game), that means a fair and safe place to buy. I was reading an argument in favour of touts somewhere though, and wanted to re-state why I’m so against them. Put simply, it’s a total menace to theatre staff and the public alike. Many theatre box office staff are very young, often female and work late at night. If anybody is going to be threatened into handing over stock, you don’t need to be Ken Clarke to figure out who is at serious risk. I’ve heard many stories… and all true.

Second, the cash difference in value between what is ‘reasonable’ and what is ‘extortionate’ does not get ploughed back into producing. “Premium Seats” are in part about this – if anybody is mad enough to pay £20 more for a ticket, it might as well go to the producer and be used to benefit the theatre world, rather than the money laundering one (where a lot of touting is used to launder money from such delights as drug sales, prostitution and child trafficking). Finally, it means rows of empty seats where unsold touted tickets can’t be re-sold, and more difficulty for genuine fans to get seats at a reasonable price.

The other controversial subject is ‘saving Dress Circle‘ – the showbiz shop that means so much to all musical theatre fans. Many in the industry have come together to help keep the shop going, with offers of everything from time to organising a ‘benefit concert’ for it. Several online message boards – the shop’s own and Whatsonstage.com to name but two – have had readers posting that since the shop is ‘commercial,’ such benefit events should be directed at charity rather than keeping a failing business alive.

My argument is that offers of professionals giving time to raise funds is no different to the usual generosity shown throughout the theatre industry towards commercial ventures in distress. How often do performers, production staff and landlords offer to take a cut / royalty waiver to keep a show going through a sticky patch? It happens more often than you think, always quietly done, in the knowledge that it is helping preserve jobs and keep the flame of a true ‘way of life’ burning a little longer. Those who really are ‘part of the business’ instantly understand all this – which is why they reacted in this way, and I thought I’d mention it to help those who are not to also understand. It isn’t a case of ‘charity begins at home’ – just theatre people doing what they always do in a pinch, banding together. It’s one of the things I love about the industry, and I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.

And just to finish on another controversial note, weren’t all the Simon Cowell  happenings last week interesting. What with him deciding 200 grams of self-raising flour, 2 eggs, 100 grams of sugar. Mix in a bowl and place in small containers in 180 degree oven (pre-heated for 30 minutes) for 20 minutes. Cool and ice using 50 grams icing sugar mixed with 20 drops water, I mean, who’d have thought…

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