The Donmar Warehouse today hosted the launch of Arts Council England's free theatre ticket scheme, A Night Less Ordinary, championed by actors Rupert Penry-Jones and Sheridan Smith (pictured). Under the scheme, which commences on 16 February, 618,000 free theatre tickets will be made available to young people under the age of 26 at selected venues throughout the country (See News, 23 Sep 2008).

At today's press conference, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham spoke of his intention to “send out a clear message to young people, that theatres are your spaces to explore and enjoy – they are your territory”. Burnham, who has agreed an additional £2.5 million of funds to support the scheme, cited the effects of free museum and art gallery entrance as an example of the “fundamental changes” he hoped the scheme would initiate.

Sheridan Smith, who co-hosts our Theatregoers' Choice Awards Concert on Sunday with James Corden, outlined why she feels the scheme is important: “Theatre is such a unique experience. I remember when I was younger and went to the theatre how awe-inspiring it was. I think a lot of young people are unsure of how to behave and what to expect from a trip to a theatre, and the best way to remedy that is by getting them in to see for themselves.”

Penry-Jones, who worked with the RSC before rising to fame in television series including Spooks and Persuasion, added: “Some of my best nights as a performer in the theatre have been when the venue is running a cheap ticket scheme and you get a lot of new faces in the audience … One of my main worries is that there aren't enough young people going to the theatre, and high ticket prices are obviously a major reason for this.”

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE NIGHT LESS ORDINARY LAUNCH PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

A Night Less Ordinary was set in motion in the wake of the McMaster report which was published in January last year following consultation with the arts industries and recommended an annual free ticket week to encourage young people to experience live theatre (See News, 10 Jan 2008).

Over 200 venues are participating nationwide, including the Donmar, Royal Court, Young Vic, Barbican, Manchester Royal Exchange, Liverpool Everyman, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, Royal Shakespeare Company and the Birmingham Rep.

Whatsonstage.com asked Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey if there are measures in place to help ensure the tickets are distributed to new and not just regular theatregoers: “The whole point of this scheme is to help venues open their doors as widely as possible” he said. “And we're encouraging participating theatres to utilise elements such as social networking sites and mobile phones to help keep up a relationship with young audience members. This is a pilot scheme, and it's one we really want to see work.”

For more information on A Night Less Ordinary, and to find participating venues in your region, visit www.anightlessordinary.org.uk.

- by Theo Bosanquet


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