Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Theatre Of The Absurd Prices.

I wrote this on Saturday afternoon, and didn’t post it as the information I found for ticket prices varied greatly between my phone/the matinee and my laptop/the evening performance. Much of it holds true, though, and so – barring discrepancies in the actual price of tickets for the Theatre Royal – I’ve decided to put it up. If nothing else, it demonstrates how confusing it is to navigate their website when pricing seats. So here goes:

I’m writing this at a time when I would far rather be on my way out to watch the matinee performance of a play I badly want to see: An Appointment With The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man might take its place, if forced to pick, as my all-time favourite film – a dark but witty tale made in Scotland with great actors, and featuring a memorable and beautiful soundtrack – and so this play immediately caught my attention. Co-written by Greg Hemphill, it promised to be a faithful and worthy successor to the film, as opposed to the Nicolas Cage version of the original, which you literally could not pay me to watch. I hate him and his inability to act convincingly in anything he has ever been in. If I see his name in the opening credits of a film on TV, I will switch it off – I find Cage to be utterly insufferable.

I recently discovered the sole benefit of being unemployed, which is the availability of concessionary theatre tickets. I realise that Cameron and the media are trying to make us out to be pariahs, and feel the need to mention that I did not choose to be unemployed, I am not happy being unemployed, and I will gladly take up employment just as soon as his backward government invest in industry, the economy, and job creation. Until then, strong healthy educated people will continue to swell the ranks of the “scroungers” and “cheats”. You may think that, signing on, we just get handouts. What we really get is the inability to afford things like food and heat, an overwhelming sense of embarrassment and inadequacy, and – if you don’t have any addiction problems – they try and help you out by making your life so miserable that you’ll seek any form of escape. As for the argument about big TVs and holidays abroad, I’m not saying there aren’t “cheats” out there, but bear in mind that all those Cash For Gold and Payday Loans adverts, and unsolicited visa card applications that arrive in the mail, are aimed at somebody: people must be using those “services.” When you’ve got nothing, and someone says you can have a brand new plasma widescreen blu-ray dolby HD 5.1 surround sound TV today and pay it up over the course of your entire life at an extortionate interest rate, sometimes you get blinded by the temptation of having something new to offset the relentless misery. Credit companies jumped on that. I despise that I feel compelled to justify to strangers on here that being unemployed does not make me feckless and workshy. Here’s a story from today’s news about real cheats – property developers who are using a loophole to get millions of pounds from the Government.

I’ve been a theatregoer my whole life, but there was a spell of a few years when I didn’t see anything, and so it was great to find out that the Citizens Theatre offer tickets to the unemployed for a mere £2. Last week, I went to see “The Brothers Davenport”, and I’ll definitely be down to see Pinter’s “Betrayal” this month. I wish I’d known about these prices ages ago. I looked into tickets for “…Wicker Man” today, hoping that the Theatre Royal would also offer a concession. They seem to, based on information about matinee pricing that I now can’t find on their site, but it ranges from £15 to £19. If you are signing on, that is between a quarter and a third of the money on which you are expected to survive each week. Ambassadors Theatre Group, who own the Theatre Royal and the Kings in Glasgow, have effectively priced theatre out of the reach of those not working. It costs ten quid just to sit behind a pillar in one of the Restricted View seats they offer, and as much as a bargain as that sounds…

The really stupid thing is, my employment history is in theatre. It’s an industry reliant on freelancers, with precious few long-term contracts and virtually no job security, and so most of the people I have worked with, graduated with, or consider friends, have had periods of unemployment. These are the very people most likely to want to go to see the productions that pass through town, to support their industry and keep it alive. As students, we were encouraged to see as much live theatre as we could, and those of us who took our would-be professions seriously did, and continue to do so. For many of us, it was already an existing habit.

The upshot of this is, I’m not going to see “…Wicker Man”, and I truly feel like I’m missing out – it has been getting rave reviews, which its producers are only too happy to retweet. I’d love to go, if I could take the hit financially, but for ten quid (to sit in a blind-spot) or fifteen (to actually see the stage) I can go to the Citz and see five or seven different plays. In fact, if you take the opportunity to pick up some of their 50p tickets, you could see even more than that. So that’s where my loyalty now lies, with a company that actually want people to see their productions.

I am disappointed, naturally, to have to miss a play I really want to go to, but on the plus side, for the same money I can go and see half a dozen equally-professional productions by writers like Pinter, Beckett, and Shakespeare. So please, support the Citizens Theatre – go and see their productions, take advantage of their 50p Ticket promotions and other low-cost prices, help keep theatre within the means of everybody. Who knows, maybe there’ll be such a boon I’ll find and get back into work.

I’m not looking for something for nothing, but while that’s all an increasing number of us have to live on it’s heartening to know that somebody is aware that that doesn’t make us heathens undeserving of art and culture. Cheaper tickets aren’t going to encourage unemployment, but they sure as hell take the edge off it for those of us already trapped here.

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