Where is the home of British Theatre?
With the impending launch of the first official UK tour of the smash-hit musical, Wicked approaching in the next 2 months, the question of its out-of-London success comes to mind. Wicked has been one of the best-selling musicals of all time since its release in June 2003 but will the tour be as successful? Tours exist so that people who live outside of London get the opportunity to see top West End shows without having to pay London prices. Alongside travel, dinner and accommodation, seeing a London show can cost hundreds of pounds, especially if you want top-of-the-range seats but a trip to your local theatre could cost you just the price of a ticket often cheaper than London prices by a considerable amount.
We asked a range of out-of-London Theatre-goers what they thought of their local theatres and it was quite clear that, whilst they were aware of what Regional theatres were, there were some people who were unsure of the level of quality to expect from the theatres. Lois from Kent thinks that “the location indicates a cheaper price for the production, which implies that the show has a lower budget and isn’t as high a quality as a west end show” drawing on the image given by the lower cost, though Tony from Devon claims that “they are often the same show on tour” implying that the show is copy-and-pasted from the West End to Regional theatres.
The main purpose of Regional Theatres such as The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, The Princess Theatre in Torquay and The Crucible in Sheffield are to make theatre more accessible countrywide; the low cost is a variable benefit and rarely reflects the quality of the travelling theatre. The facts are that the West End production of a world-class Musical, Ballet, Opera or Play will have been built to suit a long-term run, whilst touring companies would need a set that is easy to dismantle and transport, meaning some small changes could be made to the set (and yes, budget may well play a part in this). It is also true that some actors do not like touring, plus budget may not allow for the cost of a well-known actor to tour, so cast changes can be expected and it may well be true that the actor will be less known and/or inexperienced. Often one could expect to see a well-known Movie star be replaced by a (cheaper) and less known Soap Star.
Quality aside, Regional theatres are able to offer something which the West-End cannot – depth and range. Actor of both the West-End and the Regional Stage, Actor John Barr quite accurately says that “both have their advantages”; the West-End may offer the best quality a show can offer with a high budget, but Regional Theatres (which are often beautiful buildings) will offer a wider-range of shows. Within one Month, your local theatre could present one off Sporting Events (The Crucible for example), touring West-End musicals, a Ballet, a one-off night of Drag-Queens, a top-flight comedian and a revived band from the 1960s. Certain shows could not survive a long run in the West-End due to them being an ‘acquired taste’, so they rely on small Regional Theatres to make sure that those with acquired tastes get to see such performances. What a West-End theatre is a offers a unique experience that everyone should attend at some point in their life, Regional Theatres are for the community; they are cheaper, closer and more malleable. Wicked may well be downscaled slightly for a theatre, but it will still be an amazing experience. Most importantly, both rely on you. Without you all theatre may be lost, so please, utilise what is on offer to you, you won’t be disappointed.