Friday, 3 January 2014

'One of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region.'

'Every penny of the booking fee goes towards the charitable aims of the theatre, and we will endeavour to remain one of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region.'

So writes John Terry, director of the excellent little theatre in Chipping Norton, explaining why the theatre adds a £1 booking fee to all tickets whether bought online or at the box office. Unfortunately, for an audience member, things are not so simple. Charlbury is halfway between Chippy and Witney, so when the National Theatre does a live stream of one of its performances, people have a choice.

Because the Cineworld cinema in Witney carries the same performances. They are showing Coriolanus, a National Theatre production streamed live from the Donmar Warehouse, on Thursday January 30. Luxurious seats, perfect sight lines without a head in front of you, big screen and perfect sound. I can reserve tickets online and for 'seniors' they are £12.10 each.

Or I can go to 'one of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region'. Here the sightlines are often obscured, many seats (as well as being not terribly comfortable) are directly behind the one in front, the floor is not raked, and the screen and the sound are good but not up to the same standard. So the tickets will be a real bargain? No. £16 per ticket, no concessions, and a compulsory £1 'booking fee' per ticket. So £17 in all. I won't be paying £4.90 for the privilege of going to Chippy.

But lest this is interpreted as an attack on the little theatre at Chippy, it isn't meant to be. The theatre is great, innovative, a regional focus, and puts on a wide variety of often excellent entertainment. I enjoy my visits there. But it shouldn't try to appeal on price. Just as local bookshops shouldn't be claiming to be cheaper than Amazon. Because they can't!

What's more, the theatre at Chippy has an exceptionally well-heeled audience rooted in an extremely affluent corner of the Cotswolds. It doesn't even need to be cheap!

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