Nick Hytner has made a marvellous job of running our National Theatre. One of his best initiatives is the screening of productions live at cinemas and arts centres across the country. They are being shown to audiences of over 100,000 around the world.
In Cheltenham, Othello filled three auditoria and is to be repeated. Screenings of Hamlet and Frankenstein will be repeated on 22 and 31 October, respectively.
It's not quite as good as seeing the play at the theatre actually "live" but almost and a lot, lot cheaper. I reckon that if you can see perspiration on the actors' top lips, then you get an essence of a live performance.
My only regret about the live screenings is the audience is perceptibly older than a theatre equivalent – and drama audiences tend to the mature. A shame, because the reasonable price and the convenient location make these screenings an excellent way of introducing young people to the best of performance.
They are unreasonable and the public dislike them. Of what do I speak? Booking fees for theatre and concert tickets.
They are prevalent throughout the UK but what are they for? What else do you buy where there is an extra charge added for no additional service? Even the much maligned airlines link extra charges to something tangible, like a cup of coffee or a sandwich.
Theatres in this region charge varying amounts – Malvern around £2.50; Cheltenham Town Hall £1.25; Bath Theatre Royal £3.25 for credit card bookings; Bristol Hippodrome a hefty extra £11.80 for two tickets; Bristol's Colston Hall around £2; Cheltenham Literary Festival £3 per booking; but at the Everyman Theatre there is no charge.The price in the brochure is the price you pay.
It's not easy to get the big ballet companies to a town the size of Cheltenham. The London companies never leave the capital. English National Ballet performs only in the largest cities. Yet it is possible for commercial promoters to bring a company over from Belarus with full orchestra and a corps de ballet. The economics of this are puzzling.
The Opera and Ballet Company of Belarus is based in Minsk and is 80 years old. They have been given "Bolshoi" status as one of the best in all Russia.
They tour throughout Europe and descend on Cheltenham from November 12 to 14 with Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet.