Who will be the first brave producer to give out free cast lists?

free cast lists theatreBack in January, I wrote the following blog about giving out free cast lists at shows:

“Last month I went to the National Theatre to see a production of Peter Pan. On the way in to the auditorium I noticed a leaflet holder on the wall, with cast lists in it, for people to take as they walk in. It gave details of who was performing in the show as well as performances dates, times and some other notable information about the company. I thought this was a great idea and wondered why more theatre’s don’t do this (I mean we pay enough for the tickets, surely it’s the least they can do).

On Broadway, every audience member gets given a Playbill when they enter the auditorium. This is really just a glorified cast list, padded out with adverts to make up a little booklet. These are given out for free (unlike in the U.K. Where we have to pay for a programme) and can serve as a memento of the show you have been to see. Now, on Broadway theatre tickets are actually quite a lot more expensive than the West End (if you can believe that) and so you could argue that the cost of a Playbill is maybe factored into the ticket price. I’m sure it isn’t though.

The hilarious thing about Playbills and theatre programmes is the amount of money a company will earn out of advertising from one of these booklets. To place an advert in a theatre programme is probably thousands of pounds on the West End (I’m guessing) and when you think about how many adverts you see in these things, it is easy to imaging how much money is earned from these. So why the need to charge people even more money to have one? Why can’t we just give them out for free in London like the do in New York? Are we just being greedy?

How many people in the U.K. Will actually buy a programme? Maybe 1/3? That’s my guess. So can you imagine how much more theatre’s could charge their advertisers if they could guarantee three times as many people seeing the advert (if programmes were given to everyone for free)? Surely it would be a win-win situation where theatre’s can earn more money from advertising and audience members can be given a free programme.”

It is vital that performers are recognised for the job they are doing on stage. Especially if an understudy is performing at a particular performance and the audience are not aware that it isn’t the usual main performer. An audience member could go away from the show and look up who was playing the role online and either say positive or negative things about them on social media. I have seen this happen, where an actor is tweeted about their performance only to be met with the reply “I’m glad you enjoyed the show but I wasn’t actually performing today”. Actors need to be given credit for their performances so they can be recognised in the correct light, good or bad.

It shouldn’t be a requirement that audience members need to buy a programme if they want to know who is in the show. A free, no frills, cast list with the names of the actors and the characters plus the creative team should be handed out to each person as they enter the theatre and have their tickets checked.

This should be done both on the West End and fringe circuit. So who will be the first brave producer to introduce free cast lists at their next show? Someone has to be first and then hopefully others will follow suit.

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