The sight of a film star performing in a dilapidated London theatre is becoming so common that it hardly causes a stir among the capital's theatre-going classes.
But the likes of Jude Law appearing before an audience made up of large numbers of under-35s from some of inner London's poorest areas is a rarer sight altogether.
What makes it even rarer again is that at least 1,000 people will have watched Law for free by the time he finishes his run at the Young Vic in the title role of Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus, thanks to the theatre's innovative ticketing policy. Under its Two Boroughs scheme, residents of Lambeth and Southwark are entitled to one free ticket and other concessions thereafter.
That policy – plus Law's pulling power as an actor – will ensure the theatre is full to capacity, not only with theatre veterans but with people who have never seen a play before.
Like Nicole Kidman and Kevin Spacey, both of whom have made appearances on the London stage, an appearance by Law creates strong demand for tickets.
When he first appeared at the Young Vic three years ago in John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, theatre critics had to compete for room with teenage girls attracted less by Jacobean tragedy than by the prospect of getting close to a British actor who has been voted the third sexiest man in the world.
His return appearance has triggered a similar demand, particularly heartening for the Young Vic given that its mouldy dressing rooms have earned it a reputation as one of London's least glamorous theatres.
More than 1,000 people applied in two days for the 600 tickets available by post to individuals.
Another 400 tickets offered to organisations and through a mobile market place that set up shop in Peckham, Brixton and the Elephant and Castle also went within days.
Dr Faustus is the first production presented by the Natural Nylon Theatre Company, which the 29-year-old actor set up last year with his wife, Sadie Frost, and fellow British film actors Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller.
The association with such names has helped the demand outstrip any other production at the Young Vic since the Two Boroughs scheme started last June, according to Kat Fishwick, the theatre's community co-ordinator.
It has also helped with the theatre's aim of attracting people who were unlikely to consider a night at the theatre in other circumstances, she said.
Up to 70 per cent of the audiences were under-35, more than 20 per cent were from ethnic minorities, many had never been to a theatre and at least half the people had never been to the Young Vic, she said.
However, questionnaires completed by the audience had made clear that Law was not the only attraction, Ms Fishwick said. "When we asked why people came only about 30 per cent mentioned Jude as the reason," she said. "His face and name are important but, in terms of people taking the decision to come, it's not essential. Others mentioned that they liked Dr Faustus, or that it was free."
Dr Faustus will run at the Young Vic until 27 April.Reuse content