If it can't be seen from the cheap seats, it's in the wrong place

Plus, the Culture Secretary needs to be on the side of audiences

Share

A phrase in this paper’s review of the world premiere of The Winter’s Tale by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, struck me rather forcibly. Describing a striking stage effect of the bear in the plot clawing at the humans, our critic noted: “Shakespeare’s celebrated ‘exit, pursued by a bear’ becomes a billowing silk wave – though the bear’s reaching claws aren’t visible from all parts of the house.”

Audience members, who had read the reviews, took to Twitter to express their dismay at missing this, even though they had paid to be there. Should a brand new production be short-changing part of the audience?

Increasingly, it’s not unusual for even our finest directors to ignore parts of the house with important, dramatic effects. There are few directors in the world finer than Michael Grandage. But last year I saw his magnificent production of Billy Budd at Glyndebourne, and because I was sitting on the side of the auditorium I missed the climactic scene, which was played out on the side of the stage. It was Billy Budd being hanged (or so I’m told), a not unimportant part of the drama. And Glyndebourne, unlike the Royal Opera House, is a relatively new auditorium.

These are just two of many examples. Readers have told me that the Almeida theatre in London as another place where the wrong seats will give you a very partial view.

It is, when you think of it, pretty bizarre that this can happen, and happen so often. Would one buy a ticket for a football match if one knew that one was going to see a lot of the pitch, just not the part containing the goal?

Perhaps we need a directors’ code, which would state that all the pivotal parts of the action must be played on or near the middle of the stage. Perhaps, too, (and I have yearned for this for a long time) they should sit in all parts of the auditorium to watch rehearsals, so they know what will and will not be visible to those who haven’t been able to pay top price. And maybe critics should sit in the cheap seats as well... which might well concentrate directors’ minds to make all the action visible to all.

Meanwhile, to paraphrase the most famous stage direction in literature, “exit, pursued by a bear who is a very quick mover so blink and you’ll miss him”.

The Culture Secretary needs to be on the side of audiences

A number of readers have emailed to add their annoyance to that of the reader I mentioned last week, who complained of being charged to print her own tickets. One reader, Simon Bowden, says: “The Eden Sessions (concerts held at the Eden Project) have a tickets price of £35 each. You then have to pay a £5 booking fee per ticket for the privilege of printing each ticket at home.”

Meanwhile, the new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been quoted as defending ticket touts as “entrepreneurs”. That doesn’t bode well. If he is defending touts, he is hardly likely to want to take action about the worst excesses of booking fees. A Culture Secretary needs to show empathy with the needs and irritations of audiences, ranging from complaints about being charged to print your own tickets by reputable arts organisations to being fleeced by touts. It’s your job to stand up for audiences, Mr Javid, not to stand up for ticket touts.

This headline is sponsored by fans of venues’ original names

The Wembley Arena is being renamed the SSE Wembley Arena after energy company SSE paid £15m for naming rights. The deal was arranged by AEG Global Partnerships, who say that brands now see the benefit that mobile-phone operator O2 got from renaming the Millennium Dome. I suspect that SSE will find that the O2 is an exception. How many people say they are going to a gig at the Eventim Apollo in London? Most still think and speak of it as the Hammersmith Apollo. The Millennium Dome is the exception because it wasn’t around very long with that name. But Wembley Arena has seen memorable performances over decades by pretty much all of the biggest names in rock. Generally, we fans don’t like brands toying with the names of famous venues. It’s toying with our memories.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before