If you follow me on twitter, you know that I spent the weekend in the UK, taking in some new shows and some bland food (seriously, I love London. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating fast food, because I know I’m not missing much).
As is usually the case whenever I visit Broadway’s Step Brother, aka The West End, I walked away with a few observations about our similarities and our differences.
Here’s what I discovered this trip:
1. The ushers in the UK are all young.
The average age of the ushers, ticket takers, and bar staff at every theatre I went to had to be about 23. And each one of them was bubbling over with excitement and passion for the show that I was about to see. They weren’t showing me to my seat. They were priming me for an experience. I’ve always thought that these positions were ideal for students of the theater . . . and even more ideal for the audience. NYU should start a work study program with Local 306 (the ushers union).
2. What time is the show again?
It was a light theater going trip for me this time ’round. I only saw four shows in the three days I was there. And not one of those shows was at 8 PM. I saw shows at 7:15, 3, 9:30 and 7:30. And I almost went to a Friday at 5. While I was constantly checking and re-checking the curtain times all weekend because I had no idea which show started when, the alternative start times allowed me to see more theater in a shorter time. I still wonder if a Friday at 5, during key tourist times here in the States, would work. I’m dying to try it. And someday I will. Or maybe you’ll beat me to it.
3. Times Square looks more and more like Leicester Square every year.
Everyone knows that Bloomberg has had a man-crush on the Mayor of London for years. So many of the changes we’ve seen here seem to be inspired by successful policies there. The AirTrain and the Heathrow Express Train, Congestion Pricing to reduce traffic (which never passed here), and now, the pedestrian walkways where streets used to be. Heck, they even have people selling tickets to comedy shows in Leicester Square! I’m all for it. Leicester Square is a pretty exciting and safe place to be, drawing more crowds than ever. If we can continue to create a more conducive environment for visitors to spend time in Times Square, just steps away from our theaters and the TKTS booth, our metaphorical boats will all have to rise. It’s what I call The Times Square Tide.
And here’s a bonus!
4. They drive on the ‘wrong’ bloody side of the road.
At every major crosswalk, an instruction is written on the pavement: LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT. Why? I can only assume its because people like me, who naturally look in one direction before crossing the street, need to be retrained to look the exact opposite direction if they want to avoid getting run over by a truck.
What does that have to do with theater?
If you’ve got a show that is working in the US, you might naturally think that the next stop is the UK. Well, just because the folks there speak the same language (sort-of), doesn’t mean that their taste in the theater is the same. In fact, it may be the exact opposite. They literally may come at things from a totally different direction.
So before you cross the pond, make sure you stop, and look RIGHT instead of left . . . so you’re not hit by any oncoming traffic just waiting for you to step out into the street.
Because health insurance may be free in London, but producer insurance is not.
To read some of my past observations about London theatergoing, click here and here.