I was in the news this week. Not personally, but generically. A new initiative was launched in theatreland, which will have the welcome effect of helping tall theatregoers. I am a tall theatregoer.
We do have a rough time of it, we tall theatregoers. As we sit down prior to curtain up, we hear (though we pretend that we don't) the barely stifled groan behind us, or the all too audible whisper, "darling, can we swap seats, I just can't see at all NOW", or at matinees where the elderly audiences don't pull any punches, a grunt and "Just my luck!"
Well, this week we have some payback. A new website for West End theatre, Seat Plan, was launched. Seat Plan will not only show the exact view from each seat, it will encourage theatregoers to rate seats for leg room, a boon for us tall people. It's not just the people behind us who have problems. Try appreciating the imagery in Macbeth when your legs are doubled up.
One of the people behind the site, modelled on Trip Advisor, is theatre fanatic Ben Jackson, who is 6ft 7in, thus a really popular figure in the auditorium. He says: "I know how difficult certain seats can be, but there has never really been a forum for people to share their tips on different theatres, and where the best places to sit are." So far so good. But we need more. We need to know which seats should be avoided because they are near the clap-happy guests of the producer. Can one also ask Seat Plan to keep you away from people with deliberately deafening laughs, who take it upon themselves to decide for the entire audience which lines are funny - and then decide that they are riotously funny.
Perhaps the technology isn't yet here for that. But it is for this: how about every seat on the website denoting clearly and separately the actual price of the seat, the booking fee, the handling charge, the restoration levy, and all the other infuriating rip-offs.
Now that would be really helpful to tall and short theatregoers alike. And how's about the website saying precisely who is imposing these fees, and what their overall profits were in the last financial year. Maybe it would even shame those who impose such charges into dropping them. Maybe.
Pay this much and you're entitled to the wheel deal...
Is the normally marvellous Cirque du Soleil being a bit cavalier with its ticket-buying customers? I love the outfit's current show at the Royal Albert Hall. Most particularly, I loved the two top acts: acrobats who managed to perform on chairs piled high, and most of all a literally death-defying act by two men on the aptly named "wheel of death". Reviewers were unanimous in their praise for this, the climax of the show, with this paper's reviewer saying she "screamed" with fear and excitement. Pity then the audience last Saturday, paying a jaw-dropping £75 a ticket, when the performance was missing the acrobats on chairs, and the scream-inducing wheel-of-death act. Illness was apparently the reason, but a glance at Cirque's website shows how annoyed people who attended are. A spokesman for Cirque tells me that refunds are only given in the case of cancellation of a performance. I think a show without the best moments, a show without a climax, warrants refunds, too.
Sorry, Boris, I don't think you were the main attraction
Much has been made of Rupert Murdoch dining with the London mayor, Boris Johnson, with speculation about their dinner conversation at Murdoch's home. But I was more intrigued by the third member of this dinner party. It was mentioned en passant in the reports that the actor and Homeland star Damian Lewis was also there. How did Lewis get on with Mr Murdoch? After a main course devoted to talk about Conservative policy and who might be the next Prime Minister, did Rupert ply Damian with wine and try to wheedle out of him what happens in the next series of Homeland? Did he ask all coyly, "What is Claire Danes really like?" Was Damian accompanied by his wife, the excellent actress Helen McCrory? Did she have a calculated moan to the billionaire mogul about cuts to subsidised theatre, where she often works? Did the two of them move the whole conversation on to the parlous state of the arts in front of a bemused Mr Murdoch? So much we need to know.
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