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Posts tagged ‘Driving Miss Daisy’

23
Oct

London Theatre – Culture in Cash-strapped Times

Autumn feels like it’s well and truly here, and for many, leisure time turns from the great outdoors and holidays to more cultural pursuits. But in an age of cutbacks and belt-tightening, the question is, are the supermarket price wars and the constant sales in the high streets mirrored in the world of the arts? The answer in the main is, I’m afraid, no.

The Palladium

The Palladium

True, the usual theatre discount outlets are still in place. The half-price ticket booth, tkts, in Leicester Square and also now at Brent Cross is a good source for some productions, as are the online sellers www.whatonstage.com and www.lastminute.com/theatre. But they generally only offer reductions on the top-price seats, plus a fairly hefty commission.

And as has been the case for the last few years, the West End is dominated with blockbuster musicals offering seats at eyewatering prices while providing the feel-good factor that comes with an escapist night out. But that feeling of elation is soon quashed when the credit card bill comes.

The top-price seats for mainstream drama in the West End are now also in some cases what I would call prohibitively expensive.

I was tempted to go to see Driving Miss Daisy, a two-hander starring Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones, wonderfully reviewed but not, in my opinion, worth £58.50.

A Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill and starring David Suchet is scheduled to start well into 2012 with top-price seats at £68.50, and is, to my mind surprisingly, selling well already.

True, you don’t have to buy the top-price seats. But as I get older I find it difficult to hear anywhere but quite near the stage and face-on – dare I suggest others might be in the same boat. So we’re caught in a bit of a bind: is it worth paying less for a less than satisfactory night out? But it’s also true that you don’t have to go to the West End for your theatrical entertainment. As I’ve written in these pages before, the National Theatre probably offers the best value for money and the best theatrical content; with many of its plays still part of the wonderful Travelex season, you have the opportunity to see great drama for as little as £12.

Then there are the off-West End productions at theatres such as the Almeida in Islington and the Donmar in Covent Garden which offer seats at much lower prices. But here’s another grumble: both theatres are quite small and invite you to become a member at various levels, which entitles you to priority booking. The cheapest form of membership at the Almeida, for example, is £50. Suffice it to say that if you’re not a member of these theatres, by the time you’re allowed to make your booking many of the productions, especially at the Donmar, are completely sold out. You can’t win!

Luckily, the fringe usually offers wonderful value for money and generally a more unusual night out. Check out the fringe theatres near you, don’t forget the upstairs rooms of local pubs. And of course, there’s always the cinema. Many have now been refurbished and the quality of the image and sound has been greatly enhanced. But, and I’m sure you can guess at what’s coming next, the prices at some cinemas are really quite exhorbitant.

Please allow me just one more rant! My local cinema, the Swiss Cottage Odeon, was shut for a number of months for refurbishment and reopened in September with great fanfare as the new north London Imax venue. It still shows a good variety of films and I must say I was pleasantly surprised on going there during the first week to find that the ticket prices had only risen marginally. That, I’m afraid, didn’t last long – I checked online the other day and they have now nearly doubled less than a month later! They won’t be seeing me there much again. However, the Curzon cinema chain (including the Renoir, the Mayfair, the Soho and the Richmond Curzon) show the best films in London at a very reasonable price in a popcorn free environment. That’s for me!

Jeannette NelsonArts Critic
A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

28
Jun

View from the Stalls – London Theatre 2011

Those of you who may have read my pearls of wisdom on London’s theatre scene will know I am not the greatest fan of commercial West End theatres.  Too often the hype takes hold and I fork out for what almost always is a pricey ticket (even those with substantial discounts are not cheap) only to leave the theatre disappointed and vowing to discriminate more wisely in the future.

Dominic West in Butley

Dominic West in Butley

That’s not to say that the West End never hosts a gem of a play;  it’s really a question of winkling them out.  Happily there is at least one to regale us playing currently: Simon Gray’s Butley at the Duchess Theatre.  Well staged and admirably acted, notably by Dominic West playing the eponymous anti-hero, this play may be celebrating its fortieth anniversary but its rather bleak theme of the disintegration of a rather unpleasant man is, perhaps unfortunately, timeless.  

 
Butley is an academic whose world, bit by bit, is falling apart, yet Gray has crafted his play so skilfully that rather surprisingly there are some real laugh out loud moments to savour. The supporting cast adds depth and substance to the plot.  This, despite the laughs, is not a fun night out; as this is what so many West End theatre goers seem to want, it’s possible to get a good seat at a discounted price – the tickets booth at Leicester Square (and also now at Brent Cross) are offering almost half price seats for most performances.  A worthwhile piece of drama.
 
Simon Callow - Being ShakespeareAnother not to be missed performance (though I have yet to see it) must be Simon Callow Being Shakespeare at the Trafalgar Studios.   I witnessed this actor reading all of Shakespeare’s sonnets many years ago and it was mesmerising – his one-man-show promises the same.  But instead of paying £45 for your seat, try  lastminute.com/theatre – they are offering the seats for £20 + £1 booking fee.  Try this before opening night though, my pessimistic view of what theatregoers want may be wrong in this instance and then the discounted tickets will disappear!
 
I’ve just read of three more gems due to open in the West End after the summer. Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones will star in Driving Miss Daisy at the Wyndhams Theatre;

Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy

Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy

  Mark Rylance will reprise his star turn in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem which was sold out during the original run and was one of the best plays I saw in 2010.  

 
And finally the National Theatre’s latest fun-packed hit, One Man, Two Guvnors starring the irrepressible James Corden and adapted by Richard Bean from Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters One man two guvnorswill open at the Adelphi Theatre in November.  This hits the spot for the Christmas outing of the season.  I saw it at the National a couple of weeks ago it had people rolling in the aisles.  Whatever it costs, this is real value for money!
 
Jeannette Nelson A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
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