10 Things I learned about London

About a year ago, I blogged about three of the biggest differences I noticed about the London theater experience. Since I was there for a bit more time this visit, I was able to notice a few more things about the London theater experience that I thought were worth sharing.

So here they are, in no bloomin’ order!
1.  STANDING OVATIONS ARE HARDER TO COME BY.
It’s not as easy getting a British audience to their feet (If you’re curious, the quickest and biggest ovation I saw was for Priscilla).
2.  OLIVER IS THE UK ANNIE.
We may love Oliver here, but they LOVE IT, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH over there. You know how the Bald Eagle is the National Bird of the US?  Oliver is the National Musical of the UK.  (I also heard recently that the authors of Les Miz were inspired to write their epic after seeing Oliver.  Apparently, they wanted to write a French National Musical.)
3.  YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK ANYTHING IN THE THEATERS.
Take anything to your seat: ice cream, fancy pink drinks (Priscilla, again), even Coke brought in from outside (that was me).  Their theaters are older but they’re happy to clean up after you if it makes you happy.
4.  CASUAL SHAKESPEARE IS MORE FUN.
In this country, Shakespeare seems to equal stuffy.  At The Globe, it was fun, and probably more authentic.

Monitor

5.  SOMETIMES THE BRITS ARE SMARTER THAN WE ARE.
Look at this pic.  It looks like a standard cast board that you’d see in any theater, right?  Wrong.  It’s actually a video cast board. In several theaters, the cast board and the understudy boards are on video monitors. More aesthetically pleasing, easier to edit, and cheaper in the long run.  Why don’t all of our theaters have these?  I hate when we get beat.
6.  BLOOMBERG LOVES LONDON.
Our mayor failed to get London’s idea of congestion pricing passed, but he did manage to shut off traffic in Times Square.  Guess what other square doesn’t have traffic?  Leceister Square.  I wonder what Bloomie will bring from Britain next?  Multiple TKTS booths, I hope.
7.  YOU CAN BUY ADVANCE DISCOUNT TICKETS AT TKTS.
Yep, they take the money anyway they can get it in the UK. If you’re willing to offer a discount to your show for a future date, the TKTS booth will sell it for you.
Bar
8.  THE THEATERS ARE BIG.
Many of the larger theaters have room for large bar areas, where folks can sit, have a drink and socialize before their show.  It makes going to the theater more of an experience, to say the least.  At all of the shows I went to, the theaters let people in the building (but not to their seats), 1 hour before the show began.  I bet their bar revenues are bigger than ours.
9.  PRODUCERS OWN THEATERS AND ARE CELEBS.

Photo

Two of the largest theater owners in London are Cameron Macintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber, and you can feel their presence in their buildings.  And it helps that people actually know who they are (helped, no doubt, by their reality TV shows).  I also got a sense of a real attempt at keeping audience members within the theater chain.  Look at this picture of a wall of posters of shows. It was taken from inside the box office at, yes, Priscilla again, promoting all the shows playing at the Really Useful Group theaters.
10.  YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TIME YOUR SHOW IS GOING TO START.
2 PM, 5 PM, 3 PM, 7:30, 8 PM, etc.  It’s confusing and curious.
And here’s a bonus 11th thing I learned this trip . . .
11.  YOU KNOW WHAT?  I LIKE LONDON.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been there a few times in the past few years, so I’m more comfortable finding my way around now. Maybe it’s the fact that they speak English, so I don’t feel like a tool because I’m uni-lingual.
Or maybe I like London because there just seems to be theater on every bloomin’ corner.
Comments
  • London theatre-going is fun for all the reasons you mention. So when are you, mighty producer, going to introduce some of these changes here? You know you can.

  • Kile Ozier says:

    Hear, Hear! Yes, indeed the standing O is harder to “come by” in London; versus the US where audiences’ll stand up for virtually anything, rendering the accolade almost literally meaningless. (Do I sound as though I have an opinion on this…?)
    A standing O should, in my nowhere close to humble opinion, be almost involuntary: one should suddenly find oneself compelled to leap to one’s feet in response to a performance, not just so that the cast feels good about themselves and the audience can brag about their performance being given one of these US-ubiquitous ovations.
    A friend of mine’s grandmother once told him that he was given twelve standing ovations at birth, and that should be considered before one leaps to one’s feet. I think that’s an excellent barometer for gauging the worth of a performance…
    Draw me to my feet with exhilaration or awe….please…
    KO

  • I second Kevin Lambert, and not just because our names are similar. Do it up, Davenport! Fix things!

  • Kaylie Stansfield says:

    … and 12: THE BRITS LOVE IRONY. Like the fact you had to go to London to see an Australian musical.

  • Anon says:

    I got your standing O, right here. http://www.standingObutton.com

  • CL Jahn says:

    Twelve things, hm? I only count ten, plus the “bonus 11th.”
    My venue recently started allowing food and drink into the auditorium, provided the artists approve (we’re a road house). The increased revenues from concessions more than makes up for the additional cleaning costs.
    We have several video monitors in the lobbies, but we have never, to my knowledge, used them as a cast board. But I’m passing this along…
    And recently, we started keeping our Courtyard Bar open after the show, with a small jazz combo providing post show entertainment. This gives patrons a chance to wait out the traffic jams that form around the parking lots – and increases revenue. And it’s outside the theatre, so people passing by can stop in for a drink, too. Not only do we tap a new revenue source, they are exposed to the PAC as a destination for entertainment, regardless of what’s playing.

  • Michael says:

    I’ve run into people eating in Manhattan theatres. I thought they learned to do that in sports stadiums. Now I realize they were probably from London. It was annoying and I hope it doesn’t happen here except for circus-like shows like Snow Show or Gazillion Bubbles or the Blue Men. If it becomes common, I will probably stay home.

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