A Night at the Theatre

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Just before Christmas the ceiling at The Apollo Theatre collapsed during a performance of “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” (see my previous blog on technology for my endorsement of this show). It was reported that audience members in the Upper Circle, Dress Circle and Stalls were injured by falling masonry and the theatre would be closed until the New Year.

My Twitter feed went crazy – I have many friends working onstage and front of house in West End Theatres – some people wanted to express their sadness at what was a shocking event, some people wanted to blame Theatreland for failing to invest spiralling ticket prices in the ageing bricks and mortar.

It got me thinking about the pitfalls of a night out at the theatre. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big theatre fan.  In my opinion nothing is more spellbinding than the magic of theatre and I would encourage everybody to go more often but what are the risks when you are in charge of a large group?  I’m not going to take a swipe at the theatre establishment because the “incident” (excuse my pun on the name of the show) at The Apollo Theatre was a freak occurrence but taking a large group into any unfamiliar environment has challenges.

First there’s getting there. Sharing information and collecting ticket money can become a cycle of phone calls and letters. Once this is done you have to organise or navigate the transport. This can be a real headache.

Making it to the theatre is not the end of the logistical problems. Minding a large group in alien territory can be stressful and depending on the age of your group can involve anything from mass toilet runs to keeping teenagers out of the bar!

The quality of the show can also present a risk (see my blog about quality and storytelling).  When you book a show you are restricted to what’s playing. Can you guarantee that the production is going to be worth the entrance fee? Its easy to be open minded about quality when you’re spending your own money but with a group it’s a gamble.  Sadly, if your group aren’t engaged by the presentation (and sometimes even if they are) theatre audiences have little sympathy for young people who don’t understand audience etiquette.John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Oh and don’t think that at the end of the show you can relax. When the curtain comes down and the lights go up its time to get everybody home.

When you present it like that it’s little wonder people contact me.

As a bespoke storyteller I am flexible enough to bring the show you want to your location. This means that you get a convenient, professional product at a much more reasonable cost.

I’m used to working with young people so there is an expectation that it will be an audience’s first experience of live performance. My classic and traditional stories are intentionally snappy and incorporate audience participation and other devices so as to engage even the youngest children. In your own environment the skill of listening and responding appropriately can be nurtured and your group remain free to enjoy live performance in their own way.  With older students I offer workshops to explore the themes, characters and ideas behind texts (“An Inspector Calls”, “Chatroom”, “The Crucible” etc).

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.A storyteller offers an alternative live performance experience. I believe in the value, power and legacy of quality storytelling and it is undoubtedly a privilege to share stories with young people be it in a theatre, a hall or a living room (see my Unbirthday blog).

In a way, although it was shocking, I’m glad those people were injured by the falling roof at the Apollo Theatre because it proves that live performance is still attracting big crowds.  It wasn’t very long ago that plays in the West End were reporting less than 25% houses and in some ways it would have been a lot more tragic if the ceiling had fallen onto empty seats.

It would be ridiculous if people stopped going to the theatre because they were scared a ceiling might fall down.  More realistically the greatest risks to a group attending the theatre are posed by the ever increasing cost of theatre tickets and the bureaucracy of organising trips.   Whilst I hope that theatre in the United Kingdom continues to flourish I also hope that to those put off a night at the theatre, booking a visiting creative practitioner is an attractive alternative.