No, not birthday ones. I mean how I got to see “Henry V” recently. Browsing for other information, I suddenly thought, “oh, wonder if there’s anything” and took a look. There, shining at me, was a single ticket for a date I could make, and at a reasonable price too.
There’s a certain joy in that, and I think it is somewhere the computer scores over the telephone.
I well remember spending an afternoon on the phone, trying every ticket agency just to get a single seat for something – and hearing the boredom (OK, disguised hostility, well, not that well disguised) in the clerks’ voices when I asked them to see if they had a ticket for something they’d already told a hundred others “no” to.
Online, you can check as often as you like – and you can get lucky. I’m not saying it’s perfect. There’s that disappointment when the time lag means somebody else actually has the ticket held already, and you can’t get it to your own basket. Still, it often works.
Once more, though, the dead hand of “dynamic pricing” kills the pleasure, if the seat is a good one (or, frankly, pretty rubbish but still in the mid stalls or dress circle) it gets a “premium” pricing. Not for me, alas.
Occasionally, to be fair, it works the other way, with the seats sold at the last moment more cheaply, but that’s rare.
So, perfection would be a single page where a theatre chain could post all the returns and dates, at fair prices, for the lucky and quick to pick off. Then, they can experience the fun I always have chatting to the fellow “return” owners about just how lucky we were. Sharing another pleasure, what could be better?!
Normally, I try to protect readers from scams. This time, this reader was caught in one – and found out it’s common but not well known online.
I needed a reference book, and went to a well known site named after a river. They operate a thriving second-hand page, with a list of options from various outlets.
Take a look at the list I found.
Naturally, I chose to pay “just a few pence” more to “Seller B” for their book, as it was in better condition.
I was quite surprised to get the book in an envelope from “Seller A.”
Of course, it was the “Seller A” copy of the book, exactly as Seller A described it.
Seller B had “Spider Scammed” me.
I also now wonder about Seller C too…
Seller B never had the book. Instead, they “spidered” the web, looking for items, then put their own description online on the basis that if anyone bought it, they could buy it later. And if not, they could simply say it was an error… or just not deliver it…
As Seller A confirmed when I traced them (Seller A was very upset about all this), moments after I bought the item, Seller B bought it from him, using another company name. Seller A had, in fact, done 8 transactions with them in a short time… and had to refund 2. Meaning a 25% failure rate – that’s high and unusual, Seller A says.
If seller B hadn’t got A to actually send the order direct to me, and it hadn’t arrived in a seller A envelope with their A branded bookmark in it, I wouldn’t have had the evidence to tell seller B that if they didn’t refund me an amount equivalent to the book’s worth, I would get them charged with “obtaining financial advantage by use of a false instrument.” They did refund me, and seller A have reported them to the well known river site… who didn’t reply.
For legal reasons, I can’t confirm that they are “seller B” in all this.
I think it is the perfect scam:
1) It trades on human nature – as it did for me.
2) It’s for a small amount, so nobody much bothers to cause a fuss. However, if you look at the 50,000+ feedbacks they have, those pennies mount up amazingly.
3) It’s hard to prove unless they make a mistake like they did with my order.
4) A big company are quite happy to let it happen, apparently.
5) It costs the scammer nothing but, as the article online says, it makes them £££.
6) They (as the link shows) intimidate buyers into withdrawing bad comments. People like me, with online reputations to protect, won’t comment in public just in case ( I’ve made the link a graphic so it won’t be picked up by a search, for example, and named nobody) - and so it can go on.
I hope I can make others aware of it, and that the scam will end by folk choosing the cheapest item or making sure the seller has it in stock in advance. That’s the message, and I hope readers find it helpful enough pass it on.
A recent visit to my nearest (not local, just easy to get to – my locals have all been demolished for housing) cinema led me to a revelation… it IS possible to have a seat where you won’t be disturbed by anyone else…
To explain. My cinema has “club” screens. 8 seats per row, with a mix of double seats in the centre and singles at the ends. Each grouping is separated by a table area, and every seat has a very high back.
The result is that nobody is closer than 18 inches from the next person / couple. And what a joy it is. You can’t really see anyone using a phone, nobody kicks your seat or rustles a bag in your ear. Pretty much perfect, particularly as the kind of film they screen there isn’t of much interest to the type who think bringing a brewery and chip shop in with them can only add to their enjoyment.
So, 8 seats per row wouldn’t make economic sense in the West End, but there has to be something like it. Perhaps a return to Victorian and Edwardian theatre, where sections of the theatres had different types of seat? You had your regular plush chairs in the stalls, with padded benches in the last few rows for the better off “chav” of their day – safely away from the posher crowd.
Your real posh lot got private boxes at dress circle level. Now, that might work. Solve the often lousy legroom in the seats with the best view by installing “club” seats up there – 2 old rows per row of new seats, over the front three rows.
In the old days, chavs got stone steps in the upper circle. Now, a numb, cold butt for the misbehaving… I’ve just invented the theatrical equivalent of the “naughty step” and solved two problems in one!
When the National Theatre’s Cottesloe closed in early 2013, to be expanded, refurbished and re-named the “Dorfman,” they created a small red temporary wooden building in front of the Lyttelton foyer, and christened it “The Shed.”
With a life expectancy of just a year, that is now looking a little longer as the Dorfman isn’t ready yet.
Having seen more in “The Shed” last year than I saw in the main auditoria – and enjoying more of the output there too (the current “Blurred Lines” is sublime – if you can get a ticket), I’m now strongly in favour of the National expanding to a fourth venue.
In order to help them, I’ve therefore come up with a list of means by which they can keep it going – whether planning authorities or any other person with a “stick up the…” likes it or not. So, I suggest ten, but feel free to add your own:
1) Telling the local authority that it is an “original Banksy.” Everybody (myself included) LOVES a Banksy, and they are tourist attractions in their own right. Who on earth would object to that?
2) Put yellow flashing car “hazard lights” on each corner. Everybody knows that when hazard lights are flashing, the owner has temporarily given themselves permission to disregard any claim of obstruction or any legal requirement “for the time being, while we just do one small errand.”
3) Get the army “Camouflage Corps” in to make it look like it’s just another part of the National building.
4) Use the blueprints from the Olivier Theatre’s “drum revolve” to create another one for the Shed. If any busybody happens by, let it gently sink into the ground, to re-emerge when the trouble’s past.
5) Conversely, who looks up in London? Build a “fly grid” over the whole thing, and lift it 20 feet into the air as required. I was once told the Olivier grid can “fly” a double decker bus if need be. Flying a Shed should be a snap.
6) Tie a big bow on it and explain that it is just the wrapper for Nick Hytner’s “leaving gift” and that when he goes, he’ll pick it up after the party. After the party, explain that he “couldn’t get all his gifts into his taxi home,” but will pick it up later… without explaining what “later” actually means…
7) It’s wooden, therefore it will float. A barge base on it will help, but then there is space galore on the water not 100 feet from the current site.
8) Tell the council that it belongs to the Haywood Gallery next door. Agree with the Haywood that they will say it belongs to the Festival Hall, with the Hall that it belongs to the Purcell Room, with the Room saying it belongs to etc, etc. The letter could keep circulating for years…
9) Whip-round for the planning officer?
10) Just leave it and say nothing. Simplest, and everybody knows that Londoners ignore absolutely everything all the time. If you don’t say anything, then we won’t!
Hope one of the above works, as it would be a real shame to lose such a great theatre space, I think.
EDIT! Less than 8 hours after I put this online, it was announced they are looking to keep the venue until 2017!!! Guessing they read this LOL. Either way… YAY!!!!!
As both regular readers of the Theatremonkey website know, it remains a key reference in the websphere for holding “price maps” of every West End show. With the advent of “dynamic pricing” though, I find myself regularly having to qualify the prices shown as being the “base” price – what the seats were set at when booking opened, and that could change nearer the time depending on demand.
For the venue, that normally means the prices go up as the number of seats available reaches single figures. With the greed of a ticket tout / scalper, that £10 seat on row V suddenly goes for £29.50, anything closer to the stage that was £52.50 is now £95… and somebody eventually pays that, if my checks are anything to go by.
That is why, I’m delighted to blog that there are ways and means of fighting back.
First, remember that most ticket agencies don’t use “dynamic pricing” at all… yet… In other words, if their allocation is in the £52.50 zone, they’ll sell it at £52.50 plus their booking fee (which even if 25% won’t add up to £95) come what may. So, when the house is only showing “premium purple” seats available – have a look around…
Second, I took a smug delight in picking up a previously £55 seat for £35 a couple of weekends ago. Not smug in getting the price, though that was wonderful, but smug knowing that I had, in fact, been willing to pay £20 more… but “dynamic pricing” meant that I didn’t have to. The sound of shotgun ammunition entering foot was rather lovely to hear, just for a change.
Put another way, why are theatres setting us against them in this manner? A recent article in “The Stage” newspaper noted that a Liverpool panto was using “dynamic pricing” for the first time, and actually sold more seats for less overall.
More to the point, the “quick return” of selling a high price ticket doesn’t create a loyal audience who will turn up regularly as they can afford to go and keep the habit alive.
Financially, the system may or may not work. Socially, for me at least, it ain’t as appealing as Easyjet…
(Seen at the afternoon performance on 11th January 2014).
For me, the atmosphere was set just walking from Highbury and Islington station to the theatre. Knowing the area well from my student days nearly 20 years ago, I reflected that back then wearing “Marks & Spencer” jeans made me a wealthy target. Now, I wasn’t even close to the local sartorial standards. Gone are the dusty local and charity shops, the whole area now exudes the very wealth Patrick Bateman and his ilk created almost overnight in the 80s.
Creative use of projections and the austere styles of the time give the production the right visual look on an Off-West End budget. Sure, a glaring anachronism of a “flat screen” TV loses the designer points (as does incorrectly numbering the theatre seats in the ‘Les Misérables’ segment), but the cast do at least get an interesting playing environment.
What they don’t get is an even and compelling book to play. Like the novel on which it is based, the show careens wildly from compelling through self-indulgent to plain dull. The score is a blend of new writing and 80s classics, the classics mostly showing just how the rest should sound, and occasionally being responsible for slowing the action – as if the writers had lost faith in themselves and added the numbers at the last moment to cover a perceived error.
Fortunately, most of the cast manage to overcome the changes in speed and style simply by being as credible as they could. For someone who remembers these self styled “masters of the universe” the likes of Craig McDermott, Tim Price (Jonathan Bailey, Charlie Anson) were an accurate memory, Simon Gregor’s Detective Kimball a solid grounding contrast and Susannah Fielding’s Evelyn Williams a reminder of the ladies (and just how versatile this performer is – last seen in the Noel Coward ‘Dream’ in November).
I’m afraid I do rather suspect that this show got incredibly lucky in having Matt Smith’s presence. I’d booked literally an hour before he was announced, and, as a fan of his Dr Who (well, actually more a fan of Clara, but anyway), was rather pleased to see what he could do. Annoyingly, the answer was, perhaps, ‘not enough.’ Bateman is as sharp as the edges of his business card. A fanatic for detail, it’s his absolute single-mindedness that keeps his life moving in whatever direction. Smith’s style is looser, and on occasion simply too relaxed for a 1980s “Master of the Universe” (to borrow from the other classic of the period). Smith just about got by on his vocals, to his credit, but it would have been interesting to see how an established West End musical man might have done it.
There’s talk of this moving into the West End at some point. It would need scaling up if so – larger cast and a greater sense of brash entitlement oozing from the stage. Also, it’s a really hard sell for the typical West End theatregoer seeking a light evening out. This manages to be sanitised enough that there’s no nudity or “eye-covering” gory moments, but neither does it have the mass appeal a big musical needs, I felt. It’s an interesting and well-done curiosity, but is it “state of the art” – whichever way up you hang it?
Hand them out… reviving the “Goodmonkey” awards, for the 2013 London theatre year, I present:
The Theatremonkey Gold Medal of Honour:
Citation: For valour. The theatre staff, passers-by and all emergency services personnel involved in the Apollo Theatre accident.
Citation: For services to the community. Disney Theatrical Ltd. For instigating the very first “Autism Friendly” performance of a West End musical ever, both in London at the Lyceum Theatre and in Edinburgh, Scotland. Concurrently, blogger “ThroughAcceptingLimits” for the most moving theatrical blog of the experience I’ve ever read.
The Professor Brainstawm Diploma: to the young usher who used a key ring torch to power a solar calculator so they could add up a customer’s refreshment bill in a dark auditorium. Ingenuity, the new Mental Arithmetic. Who knew?
The Brittany S. Pierce Script: to the audience member commenting on an enchanting performance by Charlotte Wakefield, leading lady in “The Sound of Music,” ‘Seen bigger feet on a hamster.’ If that’s not a random comment, I don’t know what is.
The “Not Since Cats” silver bowl: to the cast of “Once.” For the most wonderful, original night at the greatest musical I’ve seen in 20 years or more. Ribbon clasp on the award to the entire cast for applauding us for applauding them. Oak leaf on clasp to Flora Spencer-Longhurst, for her “see, just you look at that, now” reassuring facial gesture to her colleague – as they came on to warm applause at the start of the second half of an early preview. Amusingly sweet.
The John Napier Blueprint: to Darren Beaumont, for his brilliant piano set for the Jack Theatre’s “Love Story.”
A solo of “With One Look:” to Leigh Zimmerman for giving us an entire character biography for “Sheila” in “A Chorus Line” with a single last brief glance at the auditorium.
The Ken Dodd Tickling Stick (for clean British fun): to “Jeeves and Wooster – Perfect Nonsense.” Proof you can entertain an audience without requiring a single tasteless second of scripting. Concurrently, a Name in Lights to Mark Hadfield. Third billing, top performance.
Diamond studded Aircraft Directional Paddles: Front of house team at Wyndham’s Theatre, for all their help guiding my confused father from car park to foyer when he got hopelessly lost on the way to seeing “Relatively Speaking.”
The Clegg Cup for Inanimate Objects: to the table in “Table” at the National Theatre. Elicited by far the most sympathy from the audience when the poor thing was attacked during the show by mad saw-wielding hippies.
Newton’s Apple: to Luke Treadaway as Christopher in “The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night Time.” His inventive scrutiny and disposal of a piece of falling confetti was an incredible bit of acting.
The entire Barnum and Bailey Three Ring Circus Corporation, plus Ringling Brothers: to Dewynters for the biggest and probably most effective advertising campaign ever mounted in the West End to mark the opening of “The Book of Mormon.”
The “Positive Mention because it won’t get a positive mention anywhere else” mention: to “Viva Forever.” Inventive set, hardworking cast, “2 become 1” – modestly entertaining even to the industry bunch I was with. Not all totally terrible, so why not say something nice about it for a change.
An I-Spy Book: to the first member of an audience I was part of, to ever spot “theatremonkey” as I was doing some “pre-show” sightline checks before a performance. Hope you thought I was polite to you!
As a summary of the year, I’ll have to declare it “The Year of the Buttock.” Not because I had any particularly uncomfortable seats, but because everything I saw, play or musical, modern or classic, seemed to feature at least one bared pair. Gender score was equal, but it was most odd – here’s hoping for more inventive directions next year.
And on that note, the academy completes it’s awards. Hope the winners enjoy them as much as I did handing them out.