Goodness knows, the London Theatre needs all of the help that it can get at the moment. Far too many shows are closing, COVID is still proving very damaging and tourists are few and far between. That is before even thinking about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on theatres and prospective paying customers.
Even so, the latest scheme to boost business via smoke and mirrors has all of the intellectual depth of Agatha Christie on a bad day.
When the former full-time, now caretaker, Prime Minister announced that he had the solution to the cost-of-living crisis, his colleagues must have heaved a huge sigh of relief, though the canny will have been a little concerned about a promise from a man whose friends admit that he is delusional.
While we might have assumed that the cunning plan had been overtaken by momentous events, earlier this week, the government proudly announced that its list of freebies provided by industry was coming on stream.
If any reader failed to spot the original story, Number 10, as we now have to call him, decided that the country could eliminate poverty by asking various corporates to donate what will presumably be surplus stock to the government for distribution amongst the needy. It may initially have sounded cockeyed but, in fact, when you read of theatre’s contribution, it gets close to risible.
On the face of it, offering free theatre tickets to children in August might appear generous. Quite how it will stop them from starving, unless the theatres then hand out popcorn and ice cream, might be more debatable. However, you might swiftly begin to question whether the motivations on the part of theatres are quite as charitable as the government would like to portray them.
In order to obtain a free child’s seat, the youngsters must be accompanied by a paying adult who presumably will be expected to shell out at the going rate.
Given that theatres are already desperately promoting tickets during the holiday period since sales appear to be slumping as a result of the absence of tourists, they could reasonably expect to increase profits by selling tickets to adults accompanying children on the basis that they would otherwise not have been tempted to go to the theatre.
If this theory is wrong then presumably top-selling shows like Hamilton and Wicked will get heavily involved in the promotion, but don’t hold your breath.
Looked at from the other end, if you are unable to heat your home, get sustenance for the family from the local food bank and can’t imagine how you will make ends meet when the next round of fuel rises comes through, quite where the £50 or £100 to purchase a theatre ticket is going to appear from is another mystery worthy of Agatha Christie or possibly the local fairy godmother.
It might be just as well that there is no current production of Oliver, since the unintended contextual irony when the young lad asks for more could pass some hungry youngsters by, while others may have found Fagin’s helpful lessons on picking a pocket or two dangerously tempting.