Arts Council England announced this week that it has given away almost 50,000 free theatre tickets to under 26-year-olds during the first three months of its A Night Less Ordinary Scheme, which was launched in February (See News, 10 Feb 2009).

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

To mark the announcement, actors Mackenzie Crook, Gina McKee, Simon Paisley-Day, Flora Spencer-Longhurst and Russell Tovey took part in a rehearsed reading at the Royal Court on Tuesday (21 July) to an audience of invited guests and over 200 young people, who attended for free.

The reading, directed by the Court newly appointed deputy artistic director Jeremy Herrin, was from a new play, Spur of the Moment, by Anya Reiss, a 17-year-old member of the venue's new writers group.

Barbara Matthews, the Arts Council's director of theatre strategy said: “More than 200 venues across England have worked hard and with imagination to get A Night Less Ordinary off to this excellent start.

“It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm among young people for live theatre and that the scheme is already inspiring some great new initiatives.

“But of course there is more to do. We’ll be working closely with all our A Night Less Ordinary venues to help them reach even more young people and to realise the full potential of the scheme to create the audiences of tomorrow.”

For more info on A Night Less Ordinary, and to book tickets, visit www.anightlessordinary.org.uk