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The Flying Theatremonkey

June 5, 2019

No, nothing to do with “Wicked” (though it keeps Uncle Wilberforce – RAF, retired – in work), we are talking “bucket list” here. To explain:

I’m not much of a flyer. Partly, as Noel Coward said, “the noise, the people.” Mostly, with a background in charter flight operation, I know too much about what goes on – and the list of commercial airlines I trust is shorter than a “42nd Street” showgirl’s costume.

Still, for many years I’ve hankered to find out what it feels like to ride in a helicopter. With a milestone in view, I finally got around to researching the perfect flight over my beloved home city, London, and the West End Theatre district I adore.

It became apparent quickly that the choice is both broad… and limited. Broad in as much as there are quite a few companies offering the experience. Limited in that many don’t exactly provide much “bang for your buck,” and a few websites show photographs of aircraft that would have made Buddy Holly re-consider his travel options.

The choice seemed to be £300 for 15 minutes leaving from an undisclosed location near London, with about 5 minutes over the city, or trailing out to Biggin Hill and coming back in for less cash but even fewer minutes of air-time.

Eventually, though, I got lucky when an expired online offer site provided the name of a company quite local to me, vvb-aviation.com. An excited phone-call later, and a £149 ticket for a 30 minute experience was mine.

PRE-FLIGHT:

On the day, a lift to Elstree Aerodrome (only drawback – that isn’t on a bus route and they won’t swoop down to pick you up from your back garden, so don’t bother asking) and a smart reception hall with grinning staff awaited.

Quick fill in of the “disclaimer form” – basically “I promise not to be an idiot and won’t blame the company if I ignore their advice and act like one” stuff, and a short wait with 4 others before being shown through a door into a small aircraft hanger, and along the wall to another door and “pre-flight briefing.”

Unlike those shown on a plane, this 5 minute video covers even how to approach the helicopter. Forget the “Miss Saigon” bending double while charging towards the side of the craft (not through fear of the Viet-Cong, more knowing that Kim will sing again shortly after). That’s all “Hollywood.” Reality is that you don’t need to bend – the rotor is way above you – just don’t put your arms in the air if you still require them after the flight. Likewise, in order to (literally) keep your head, stay away from the helicopter’s tail rotor. Don’t worry, they won’t let you near it anyway.

Golden rule: approach from the front of the helicopter at all times, so that the pilot knows where you are. Obviously, if he sees you below him during the journey that’s your fault for not paying attention to how the door closes and locks.

Oh, and step on using the step indicated. Don’t step on the floats on the ground runners (the grey squishy things attached to the rails the helicopter lands on). If you do, that’s several hundred quid up someone’s jumper – yours.

The good news is that you can take both photos and video. It’s in the comprehensive PDF they send you beforehand, but I did check again that my elderly video camcorder was acceptable. Call me cautious if you like, but I wanted the film premiere to be on YouTube, not Coroner’s Court TV.

Sensibly, you can’t take pictures as you are lead out onto the actual airfield apron itself (friends and relatives can film you from the café overlooking the field, though). That ensures you are concentrating in a dangerous environment… and the sooner it applies to all public streets and the London Underground, the better. Again, the ground team guide you in a tight pack so nobody is at risk as you wend your way past light aircraft and onto a short narrow path to the actual helipad.

A tiny dot between the trees became a “turbine engine Bell 206 LongRanger” as VVB’s website has it. Not as noisy as you’d think, it landed smoothly and the delighted previous passengers disembarked. Our time had arrived.

As the team re-fuelled (helicopters run on “Jet 1” – a sort of kerosene mix, I wanted to check it wasn’t the bar’s keg beer going in accidentally), we were called forward according to group size for a solo or double photo in front of the helicopter. Ready framed and available to buy for just £10 on landing, great souvenir.

Back to the path, and finally the big moment. Called forward again – first, the person who paid extra to sit in the front seat (fair enough, bit more space maybe, but you still get views everywhere), then a young German couple… then myself.

The interior is a bit like a luxury limo, with seats facing forward and back. The seats are really low, as in the old Leyland Mini, but leather and thick, very comfy. Belts are as on a plane, with the option of a shoulder belt too. Best of all, a headset each, with microphone so that you can hear your pilot, air-traffic control and other passengers.

The MAIN EVENT:

Cleared, and welcomed by Captain Steve, almost time for take-off.

These helicopters fly at around 120 knots (138mph, according to Google), at 1150ft, about a hundred feet higher than “The Shard” building. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it. The video can’t show (in the same way photographs in a theatre can’t show) distances very well. What looks far away on camera is in fact close enough to make out car makes and models, even read some signs.

The day was slightly grey, the very best, according to the team, as you fly below the clouds. Rainy and windy, they can’t fly; too sunny, London haze gets in the way. Remembering that there’s no need to try and dodge side-to-side to see both views, as you get the other side on the way back, first see Elstree (see the famous film studios), my own suburb and those I grew up knowing.

Follow the M1 motorway and North Circular Road over Wembley (spot the Stadium arch) towards Wood Green and Alexandra Palace “Ally Pally,” then Hackney and the Olympic Park – West Ham Stadium – and looming skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.

This isn’t just a total “joy-ride.” Being up there, there’s a whole new perspective on both history and geography of London. You can see how individual packets of land were developed, the styles, layouts and density changing with each era. It’s also true just how green London is, and how varied the landscape in hills and valleys with many more lakes and rivers than I’d expected.

Pilot Steve alternately spoke with various control towers and pointed out the sights. There’s thankfully no professional commentary, just friendly comments when he can, and cheerful replies to questions he’s heard a million times before.

Only thing he forgot to mention was, well… helicopters stop. As in (actual thought process recorded here):
“Whee, we’re flying. It’s not too fast or too high, and really smooth, it’s brilliant.”
“We’ve stopped.”
“Hang on. WE’VE STOPPED. Flying. Flying means forward. WE HAVE STOPPED.”
“!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Oh, hang on, this is a helicopter.”
“Helicopters can ‘hover.’”
“I think this must be that.”
“Oooh, we are just ‘hanging around’ (some kind of lonely cloud)”
“Oh. Now I get why helicopter pilots want to be helicopter pilots. Hanging around just staring about at 1150ft is breathtaking.”

As Steve explained, we pass through 3 Air Traffic Control (ATC) airspaces. Elstree, Heathrow (who know we are there, but we don’t bother them, so they don’t bother us as they are busy) and “London Controlled Airspace.” That’s the bit in charge of who and what can fly over the capital area itself.
We had stopped as there was a plane taking off from London City Airport, and two other helicopters in our immediate vicinity. Enough to constitute a sky-high traffic-jam. Typical Whitsun bank holiday Sunday – everybody hits the, er, sky.

Fortunately, some good luck. Apparently, ATC have two choices. They can either make you wait or – if they know and trust your particular operator – they will allow your pilot to make his own decisions. It was a very good time indeed to find out that ATC have utmost confidence in VVB. TG.

So, on to the “11 O’Clock number” of the trip. Helicopters must follow the Thames, and we did so, from the O2 Arena, over Tower Bridge and the rest, passing the Strand – Novello, Aldywch, Duchess, Drury Lane, Vaudeville and Adelphi (Mr Lloyd Webber, do fix the gutters) and to the edge of Green Park, looking to and indeed over Buckingham Palace itself. Wow.

Second new flight sensation, as the helicopter banked hard to Port (you feel it, a little like a fairground funhouse floor) and around for the return along the Thames.

This time, the Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, Globe and Bridge Theatres in view. Down along the Thames back to the Isle of Dogs, and home over Hackney, this time buzzing the plutocrats of Totteridge Lane (the rising hill and trees may cause turbulence, I didn’t notice) and shufty at their swimming pools – no privacy for the wealthy with a helicopter around – and the beautiful (must be protected) green belt. Through the trees ourselves and a home landing, soft and gentle as a butterfly on a leaf.

Worth the money? Too right. Magical experience? I’d do it again in a heart-beat. One ticked off the bucket list… now… wonder if Madonna is ready for our duet at the Palladium next year?

P.S. Forgot to mention: we picked up a hitch-hiker who made its presence known about the time we stopped for traffic. Either we found the brightest bee on the planet – or the laziest. Can’t decide.

Tempted? Vvb-aviation.com or 0208 953 0584 (10am to 4pm Monday to Friday) is the place. It could be you…

Man of La Mancha: London Coliseum

May 22, 2019

(seen at the afternoon performance on 15th May 2019)

I’ve always been allergic to the song, “The Impossible Dream.” It’s either a dirge wrung out by some idiot on “Britain’s Got No Talent Whatsoever,” or beaten to death by an enthusiastic choir of one type or another (gospel and youth seem particularly keen on it). When the chance came to put the number in context, as you can imagine, I unwillingly grabbed it.

As it turns out, the song is the first act closer, and Kelsey Grammer (Don Quixote) gives it a lovely reflective meaning, the high-point of an otherwise disappointing show.

These days we consider mental illness something we are moving towards being able to discuss – and attempt as a wider public to understand. This could be the reason this tale of a philosophical old man becoming a knight and having chaotic encounters with everything from a windmill to a dodgy innkeeper and local hooker / barmaid, just feels uncomfortable now.

Director Lonny Price decides to set it in a museum (programme notes – James Noone’s set could be anything) turned prison basement, with Quixote talking his way through a trial by other prisoners as he awaits the real thing. The time is any, so is the place. It works to an extent, as the chorus are dragged into the action and don relevant clothing.

Sadly, the material has aged. Already alluded to is the mental health angle, but there’s a particularly unsavoury rape in the second half, with victim Aldonza / Dulcinea (Cassidy Janson) unbearably treated. Her solo “Aldonza” is one of the better parts of the piece, but hard to concentrate on, given the context.

As Quixote’s squire Sancho Panza, Peter Polycarpou is his usual musical theatre self, a proper actor who can command the huge stage and fill it with his voice. By contrast, Governor / Innkeeper Nicholas Lyndhurst has to overcome a lack of singing ability – but almost makes credible the prison bully as much as the dodgy landlord (ironically once a role Polycarpou played in ‘Les Misérables,’ come to think of it).

The rest of the show is a bit blurry. The company numbers sound better than most of the solo work. The dance routines are pretty thin and lost against the strange set with a staircase possibly welded together from a re-discovered “Starlight Express” bridge.

Coming off worst is the book. A series of short inter-connected incidents, none are of any particular interest and fail to sustain the attention.

The score has a couple of decent numbers beyond the best known, and the full orchestra make it sound as good as possible even if the sound department don’t always find the balance between them and the singing performers.

For those who enjoy whimsy and can overlook the possible dementia angle, it may be an enjoyable enough encounter. For the monkey, it was afraid it was wondering if Frasier had lost a bet with Niles on this one.

The show moved often at glacial pace, felt both dated and even twee at times when it wasn’t being as un-politically correct as it could be. A chance to see and understand just why it hasn’t been done in London commercially since 1968 – and probably won’t be again if producers have any sense.

The last of the variable Grade / Linnit musical theatre experiments with the ENO, and probably a good time to call it quits.

2 stars.

 

Taking a week off, back blogging on the 5th June. Enjoy the bank holiday week!

 

Three Sisters: Almeida Theatre

May 15, 2019

(seen at the afternoon performance on 27th April 2019).

Three women in a Russian military town, longing for the Moscow they left a decade ago. Rebecca Frecknall’s incredibly spare production strips Chekhov back to the absolute bone.

In this, Frecknall is aided by a clear version by Cordelia Lynn, working from the translation by Helen Rappaport (good programme article on the subject, incidentally). No heavy language, in fact, the first half in particular plays like a superior soap-opera – even though all the memorable portentous speeches are present as expected.

As Olga, Patsy Ferran is the marquee name, and her performance is the usual Ferran energy but tempered to suit the worn duty of her bereaved character.

Sisters Masha (Pearl Chanda) and Irina (Ria Zmitrowicz) complete the title trio. Well-chosen to illustrate the contrasting paths chosen, each has engaging character quirks. Chandra adopts a sophisticated London drawl. Even if it becomes a little “Snagglepuss” as her character grows older and jaded, it’s interesting. Zmitrowicz uses bursts of alternating energy and depression to good effect, her final despair moving and believable.

Brother Andrey (Freddie Meredith) is impressive – his scene with future wife Natasha (Lois Chimimba) a metre from the Monkey’s nose a lovely study in two actors trusting each other. As the play continues, both prove sound as he becomes selfish and she struggles with reality.

In the wider cast, Alexander (Peter McDonald) is a charming officer, his first scene a model of how to make an impact without needing to steal from those around him. Ivan (Alan Williams) makes a drunken doctor’s giving up on life a lesson to the rest of us, Anfisa (Annie Firbank) a sad figure ill-treated but with immaculate timing and a study in movement. Notes too for Ferapont (Eric MacLennan) and Nicolay (Shubham Saraf) for optimism.

The funeral opening is outstanding, and much of the staging – placing characters on a shelf above and to the right of the action is original and compelling. The final scene is perhaps a slight indulgence, as is an odd use of photography but neither are fatal to the work.

Sadly, the major flaw is the playing speed. Had the entire cast matched Ferran’s pace, there would have been fewer opportunities for the action to feel too slow. As it is, there is a meandering that doesn’t justify attention for the entire almost three hours. Still, the concept and acting are almost enough to cover the issue, and this is a production worth seeing.

3 stars.

Google Crushes Childrens’ Dreams

May 8, 2019

For those who don’t know, as well as Theatremonkey, I’m one of the founding admin team members for theatre discussion board theatreboard.co.uk. Born after the closure of a beloved discussion board over at Whatsonstage, for the past three years six volunteers have built the board to the point where it gets over 2 million page views each month.

Initially, those same six people dipped into our own pockets to meet the simple start-up costs. As popularity grew, we saw an opportunity to do a little good – giving back to the theatre community we love, as well as putting the site onto a more stable financial footing.

We achieved this by first paying our discussion board hosting service a (traffic-dependent) fee to let us choose our own advertising for the spaces they usually filled on our board.

Kind help from theatre industry experts and friends of mine lead us then to partnering with an advertising media company, who placed paying advertisements on the board’s pages for us.

For almost two years this went so well that we were able to not only cover the costs of keeping the site going, but far more wonderfully, use the surplus to make (board member voted on) donations at Christmas of over £1000 to tiny organisations helping the community through theatrical techniques.

On 12th February 2019 this year, it all came crashing down, when an email arrived from our marketing company informing us that,

“your site has been removed from any of their advertising demand due to invalid account activity. This can be anything from bot traffic, incentivised traffic, manipulation of ads, encouraging users to support the site through ad interaction or deceptive ad placement. It really can be any of these and unfortunately they do not tell us any specific information why they have blocked the site (nor will they) and there is no right of appeal.

Google has the sole discretion to determine instances of invalid activity. We treat invalid activity very seriously, analyzing all clicks and impressions to determine whether they fit a pattern of use that might artificially drive up an advertiser’s costs or a publisher’s earnings. If we determine that a network partner account might pose a risk to our advertisers, we may disable that account to protect our advertisers’ interests”

Our hosting service is long established and very well known, it does everything to comply with known rules and so of course did the marketers and us administrators. The email passed down to us by Google was a bolt-from-the-blue, a total shock… and fatal.

The marketing company’s “account manager” at Google proved a stone wall, and nothing our marketing friends (who fought valiantly for over a month) nor ourselves tried, in order to make up for that blockage, could make up for the loss.

Google is “judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to online advertising it seems. An algorithm decides; and conviction followed by death is without warning or appeal. Along with other cases I later found online, we were terminated without reason, warning or opportunity for discussion.

Fall foul of Google, nobody else will touch you. It is the end.

The upshot of it all is that, thanks to Google, and solely to Google, there will be no more donations to charity. Strong financial management (basically, making Scrooge look like Bob Geldof) means theatreboard itself has enough basic funds for the board to continue for many years to come, provided the essentials don’t increase exponentially in price.

Theatreboard’s admin team can still “rent out” advertising spaces ourselves if we wish to. However, it means that organisations who want to target our theatrical types specifically will have to pay far more to do so as those advertising spaces will be far more expensive for us to rent on the “as required” basis, rather than the previous happy system.

Outside of those times, theatreboard readers will be bombarded with advertising way outside of our control, for products and services we wouldn’t wish them to be exposed to. We won’t earn anything from that – the chance for good things to come of it all… lost.

For those who think “do no evil” is a pretty cool company slogan… it is… trouble is, they don’t believe it, and absolutely everybody else suffers as a result.

Last Christmas, at theatreboard reader’s vote, www.childrenandarts.org.uk received £500 from Theatreboard’s advertising surplus. 10 underprivileged children – some even from hospices – got a year’s place each, thanks to our scheme.

Google will now directly deprive other disadvantaged children of such life-changing places. Certainly, they have stomped with Herculean might on the tiniest flames of hope our chosen charity kindled within those kids. It’s even quite possible they deprived the world of great actors of the future.

How evil is that? I think we all know the answer.

When theatre visits bite back…

April 17, 2019

To open with a famous quote from “Clueless” – kindly reminded by good friend and Angeloloigst Dr Garside, “’My doctor said I should avoid sports where balls fly at my nose’ ‘Well that’ll cut into your social life then.”

Sports may be dangerous, but I’m now half-convinced theatre is out to kill me. Last year, I avoided death from, variously: actors tripping and falling on me (and not the ones I wouldn’t mind falling on me, either, worse luck), various flying hair-grips, light-bulbs and most notably some sort of medicine ball intended for joyous effect, but lethal. The last, in fact, still has my dentist concerned (impact injuries can take up to 18 months to show, he says).

We all know the risks of sitting in the front row. Aside from the less mathematically-gifted, or just plain lazy, fellow audience member using the space (whether there or not) to cross from one side of the theatre to the other, trampling on those seated; the major risk is a shower of spit and sweat from the stage. A few weirdoes welcome the DNA sample, cherishing it on a tissue. The rest of us carry antiseptic spray and hope the cast’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

Navigating the building is always fun. Not many people know that when many West End theatres were built, there were great tax-breaks relating to the number of stairs installed. The more, and the less noticeable, the more tax relief, allegedly. For today’s audiences, it’s a case of always being aware. It’s a step from street to foyer, then the odd one or two more just inside the door. Perhaps 15 (plus a little one you won’t see until the last second) to the stalls, and 500 up to the cheap seats. And watch for the uneven floors and carpets held down by duct tape, too.

Adding to the amusement, funding cuts mean you can’t use the convenient fire exit to leave at the end, so the whole crowd has to negotiate a single flight of stairs on the way out. Hope everybody sees every step or it’s a sponsored domino-topple for all.

Of course, if the stairs don’t get you, the swinging doors will. By law, theatre doors are made of rock rather than wood, and heavily lubricated. The solid brass fittings are spiked in tribute to the “Iron Maiden” and sharpened before every performance.

Each winter, and indeed summer, those with weak immune systems receive free tickets from all major shows. The auditorium climate control system’s filters are sent off for refurbishing, and thus there is nothing to prevent those lovely coughed-up germs from spreading like wildfire over a couple of hours – a nice loud honking alerting the healthy where to turn for the latest incoming attack. The best theatres send these people after the rest of the audience to sit beside us on the tube on the way home, too.

Finally, of course, the big one. You’ll probably have bought your tickets at home, and the shock of the price will have worn off. However, it is noticeable that many theatre foyers now have defibrillation devices installed in prominent positions. These include by the programme seller (I mean, £5 – I used to pay that for a ticket, a good stalls ticket), and most of all by the theatre bar. These days you can’t afford the stiff drink needed to read the price list – the price-per-glass is enough to get the first-aider charging the paddles, before you even get to the per-bottle section.

All in the name of entertainment, I guess, and if you don’t like the show, at least you can have fun wondering if you will survive to the end…

 

And on that note, I’m off for a couple of weeks. Back blogging on 8th May. Happy Easter / Passover to those celebrating them.

Maggie May: Finborough Theatre

April 10, 2019

(seen at the afternoon performance on 7th April 2019)

Last year it was the turn of Lionel Bart’s “Twang” to get an uproarious revival on the London fringe. This time, the more successful “Maggie May” (Adelphi Theatre, 1964 as the programme reminds us) is given a thoughtful outing in the even smaller Finborough auditorium.

Liverpool in the early 1960s was a cauldron of Union rules and religious beliefs, a mixture of poverty and humour, quick-witted creativity and most of all a quest for doing what was right under the toughest circumstances.

Bart and Owen give us the tale of prostitute Maggie May (Kara Lily Hayworth) and childhood friend Patrick Casey (James Darch). Her father was a drunken low-life, his a dockyard Union leader who died too soon. She ekes a living off the streets, he tries to become a docker like his father. The story is of refusing to handle guns destined to kill fellow stevedores in distant lands, and of a woman loving a man who is having his heart and soul torn apart.

No real Bart classic songs in this score, though several will be half remembered, including “D’Land of Promises” and even “Dey Don’t Do Dat T’Day.” Others land simply thanks to performance – “The World’s A Lovely Place” to name just one.

Truthfully, the book no longer hangs together, and the monkey was slightly confused by the motivation that lead to the ending. It’s a major flaw, but not sufficient to upset the entire show.

Sam Spencer Lane (choreographer) fills the tiny stage with dance routines far more vibrant than witnessed recently by the monkey at one horrible “West End” production. Dance Captain Michael Nelson ensures execution, though perhaps needs to work with a couple of the cast to ensure safety with their lifting technique. Matthew Iliffe (director) too has a command of the material and use of the traverse stage that allows the actors to engage fully with the entire audience at all times… a little too fully with the popcorn, please note, Mr Iliffe – picking it out of the coat for hours…

It’s a lively cast. Fresh from her triumph as Cilla, Kara Lily Hayworth takes on another Liverpool icon with gusto. A strong musical theatre actor, her voice perhaps sometimes yielding to the piano (Henry Brennan, the impressive sole accompanist) but retaining our sympathy to the end.

With James Darch, there’s an incredibly strong bond, and Darch inexhaustibly gives us a multiple layers from detached committed activist to vulnerable youngster – moving at will between them as required.

Old Dooley (David Keller) is equally impactful. What could have been a montone “elder” performance instead has a truth and depth that calibrates the younger actors’ present and future within the story. Likewise Mark Pearce (Willie Morgan) demonstrates where perhaps some of them could go. Opportunist, exploiting and using where he came from in order to forget – it’s strong work. A note too for his “neice” (Chloe Carrington) establishing herself to an entire room with mere body-language in both this and other ensemble roles.

Both Norah Mulqueen (Cathy McManamon) and Maggie’s friend Maureen O’Neilll (Natalie Williams – the “Moore” appears to have vanished since “Ballroom”) likewise make maximum impact in a short time. McManamon simply is a Northern Publican, while Williams has a wonderfully clear, strong voice, characterisation and stage presence to match.

The men in the ensemble fair well too. “D’Same Size Boots” is a riot of hat and coat swapping and excellent timing from Eric, T.C and Gene (Euan Bennet, Barnaby Taylor and Leon Kay) who also retain a balanced masculinity in their dock-working – not falling over an edge when the songs suggest they could. Augmented by Joshua Barton in the big protest scene “Union Cha-Cha” there is much good work done. Balladeer and Milkman Aaron Kavanagh too is sound in leading the opening to both acts in soulful voice.

That the Finborough is committed to bringing us these forgotten shows and stage them to a high standard is alone worthy of anyone’s time. Even where, as here, the material has faired less well, there is still much to enjoy.

 

3 stars (5 for the cast and creative team, though).

Theatre Marketing Crisis?

April 3, 2019

For those who missed it, back in February 2019 some fault in theatremonkey’s part of the world threw everybody off the telephone and internet for almost 14 days. Though after 4 I was able to rig a 4G Wifi dongle solution (most 4G providers were also down), it meant online time had to be rationed carefully as there was only very limited data transfer available – and speeds were not the usual 56Mb or more that get the job done.

This meant being able only to access theatre news on a few websites for short periods, and no browsing theatreboard.co.uk for the latest opinions and gossip.

What it also meant was being pretty much cut off from the entire theatre world. Living day to day with various streams of theatre news, the latest happenings – every press night, new production or booking period announcement, and on to which actors went off sick at the interval, and which performances got cancelled half way through – provide a steady flow.

Guess how much of this stuff is in the offline mainstream printed press, television or even BBC “Red Button” information text? Yes, that’s right, absolutely nothing. For four days straight, not a word about theatre in any newspaper (except the Baz Bamigboye column each Friday in the Daily Mail, bless them). Otherwise, nothing. Two West End openings were not reviewed anywhere in print, there’s no “listings” pages in the Evening Standard any more – a few adverts, but not the double-page comprehensive one of old. Likewise even “Time Out” magazine goes that route, as does “Metro.”

Had I been interested in football – no problem. Still pages of it at the back of every newspaper, even non-league teams get the odd mention of how they are doing. I was able to read about the Super Bowl, and the Joshua fight negotiations too.

I don’t know if the newspapers have given up on theatre, or theatre marketing have given up on newspapers – I suspect a mixture of both… one thing I do know is that this situation is worse than terrible and will continue no matter what.

Already, fewer young people are going to the theatre, and the West End in particular keeps going on elderly regulars, the odd “star play” and hit musical, plus inflating tickets to enormous prices when they think they can get an audience.

My isolation from anything happening lead me to conclude that there is NOTHING getting out to the wider world beyond those who already know and care. State schools don’t teach drama and can’t take children to the theatre as there is no money for either, and precious little political will. The chances of anyone after school reading, hearing or seeing anything about theatre at all is apparently almost nil (being fair “All About Eve” got some coverage thanks to Anderson / James). In other words, unless you are lucky enough to have a private (fee-paying) education or someone highly theatre-motivated in your life now, forget it.

Sure, there’s a broader thing of panto undergoing massive revival, thanks to the high-profile Palladium, so there’s a tiny chance one family tradition is being revived, but that’s as far as it goes in the mainstream, I’d guess.

Judging by the number of emailed press releases I get about productions, the PR agents are a hard-working lot, but they are clearly having no success whatsoever getting big media to listening to them. Is the solution for some to band together to produce free or sponsored content that cash-strapped media outlets could use direct to fill pages? Are producers themselves being given all the information they need about marketing, from marketing agencies? Are the marketing agencies themselves stuffed with young people who never had the newspaper habit and don’t think investigating it is worthy of their time or client’s money?

I just don’t know. All I do know is that if you are not online and already know exactly where to look for theatrical news and information, there’s nothing else out there. Fact. And anyone in the theatre industry who doesn’t find that one of the scariest things ever needs to wise up, and fast. That is all.