West End audience finds refund offer just the ticket

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The Independent Online

Tessa Williams made history last night when she became the first ever theatregoer to walk out of a West End show - and get her money back.

After Fields of Ambrosia had been slaughtered by the theatre critics, it was the public's turn to pass judgement on the play's "sale or return" refund challenge. At half time, Ms Williams was in no doubt.

"It's terrible. I mean, I don't like to go by reviews, but my God, they were right," the 24-year-old bank clerk from Forest Hill, south-east London, said as she filled in her ticket refund form. "I knew what the story line was, but I thought it would be approached in a more subtle manner."

And she was not the last theatregoer of the night to leave disgusted by the story of a travelling executioner who falls in love with his next victim on Death's Row.

But the show's American producer, Nicholas van Hoogstraten,insisted his commentary on death was admirable and endorsed by the small number of people who walked out. "What's four out of 120? It's like one and a half per cent," he said buoyantly. The fact that the Aldwych Theatre seats 1,200 seemed to have escaped his calculations.

If the show doesn't pick up in two weeks, it will have to close. "I'm gobsmacked that the theme is not being understood in a country with a history of accepting different theatres," Mr van Hoogstraten said. "It's intentionally dark."