The Cost of Entertainment

Sarah Southern

Mark Lawson has written an interesting piece in the Guardian about the cost of theatre tickets.  It focuses on the premium price being offered by some theatres to get some unusual extras.  He writes that “the £1,500 ticket involves access to rehearsals, backstage tours, Q and A sessions with Ayckbourn, as well as a seat at the finished play” for the Alan Ayckbourn play Arrivals and Departures.

This is clearly a fundraising tool for the theatre or company and quite a good one at that.  Walk into any arts institution and you will see a board of supporters who are willing to hand over their cash to support the arts.  It would be assumed this who it is aimed at.  I doubt theatre goers like myself who are likely to be found in the returns queue waiting for a cheap deal are their target market.

Lawson goes on to say how uncomfortable the cheap seats can be in a theatre (he is tall so can understand his predicament).  As a journalists he has perhaps become accustomed to the complimentary tickets offered in the stalls rather than the slips in the balcony.  Somewhere I sit regularly – I am short so don’t have an issue with being squashed – and once you settle into the play you soon accept your vantage point.

Currently I go to theatre or dance about twice a week.  Rarely do I buy my tickets in advance.  I turn up on the day and see what is available in my price range – ideally a tenner.  In recent weeks I have seen Book for Mormon (£20 – won the daily lottery for tickets), Coppelia (£5), Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (£20), Passion Play (£15), This House (£12) and The Audience (£20).  All good seats with great views.  Reasonably priced for great entertainment.

But if I were going to the Ashes at the Oval at the end of August how much would I be paying?  £50 – £60 perhaps.  And it is sold out.  Or if I wanted to see a band at the O2?  Iron Maiden are playing this coming weekend (wouldn’t be my first choice, I’d have to admit….) the cheapest ticket would be £46.  Theatre soon becomes a very sensibly priced option for a great evening out.

Of course there will always be expensive tickets.  And that is fine.  I doubt I would want to pay £127 to see Book of Mormon when I can try and get a ticket for £20.  But somebody is happy to pay that amount.  And without those people what chance does good quality theatre and performance have to survive.  Something Lawson agrees with wholeheartedly.  He ends his piece by saying “theatre critics, though, should never forget that the heroes of the medium are theatre-goers.”  

Sarah Southern

One Direction……

Just wondering how many times I’ll have to take my 6 year old niece to see this????

It is Cowell’s latest offering to feed the One Direction global frenzy.  Directed by Morgan Spurlock (he of Super Size Me fame) it will give an insight into the lives of Harry, Zayn, Liam, Louis and Niall whilst they’re on the road.

My niece  has quite the fascination with One Direction.  For her birthday recently she was showered with One Direction themed gifts.  And yes, I’ll admit I was one of those who joined the One Direction bandwagon: calendar, posters, pens, pencil case, a clock – thankfully the line was drawn at the One Direction duvet cover.  There is something a little odd sleeping with 5 faces staring at you.

But we shouldn’t mind too much about this craze for One Direction.  She has a love of pop music and is keen to search on You Tube for her favourite tunes.  It shows at least she has an interest in music and dance and that can only be a positive.  I did think maybe going to the One Direction gig might be a step too far for someone so young.  No doubt it’s her bed time by the time they come on stage.

Before One Direction she was obsessed with Hairspray.  And before that Mama Mia.  I have now seen both more times that is advised.  But an early love of musicals can only mean a love of other arts as she gets older.  At least that’s what I am hoping for.

Read the Guardian’s review 

Sarah Southern

Sweet Bird of Youth




Not quite a mood lifter but Sweet Bird of Youth is a fascinating play nonetheless.  Kim Cattrall gives a strong performance as the drug abusing Hollywood starlet.  Somewhat depressing that the play claims youth is over at 29.

Sweet Bird of Youth follows Cattrall who is befriended by a small town boy, Seth Numrich, who had been working as a cabana boy in Florida.  He manipulates her into coming back to his small home town so he can win his true love.  Slight problem.  Seems last time he was in town he got very friendly with his true love and left a lasting reminder.  Her father, the local politician, is unhappy that his daughter has been left with a “whore’s disease” and is keen to see our leading man dealt with severely.

Catrall believes her latest movie has been a disaster and a total failure.  She allows herself to be manipulated and blackmailed by Numrich.  You see her at her worst at the beginning of the play and as it progresses she becomes a stronger character.   Numrich calls a Hollywood gossip columnist as part of his blackmail.  He has Catrall speak to her.  Expecting to be shunned she is shocked to learn her latest movie was a hit.  People wanted to know where she’d been.  She was once again the toast of the town.  Perhaps proving failure really is just in your own mind.

Sweet Bird of Youth is a well acted play throughout and I would recommend going to see it (although some accents a little questionable).  But it really will not lift your mood.  I felt a little sad when walking out the Old Vic.  And that isn’t what you always want when enjoying the theatre.

Sweet Bird of Youth is playing at the Old Vic until 31 August.

Read the review in the Guardian and the Telegraph

Sarah Southern

Passion Play

Thinking of having an affair? Don’t.

But just to really make your mind up that it’s a terrible idea go watch Passion Play.

Eleanor (Zoe Wanamaker) and her husband Jim (Owen Teale) have an envious marriage.  In love after decades together and still passionate.  The younger lover, Kate (Annabel Scholey), of their dead friend however is going to pose a problem.  She has quite a fancy for Jim and is going to get him no matter the consequence.  As she lures him for lunch you want to shout out to the stage.  Warning him that he is stepping into something he shouldn’t.  Instead you watch as decades of love and trust are gone in one passionate kiss after lunch.

Scholey’s Kate is a confident, sexually liberated woman (this was a play written in the 70s) and you admire her for being so brazen.  But you loathe her for being such an unnecessary minx.  She really doesn’t need to be pursuing her friend’s husband.  But pursue she does.  And the love affair begins.  And so does the heartbreak of Eleanor.

Throughout both Eleanor and Jim have alter egos voicing the true thoughts of the characters.  Often contradicting what their actually saying.  These dialogues often brought the most laughs during the play.  Giving that real insight to what we really think in these awkward situations but never really disclosing it.

Passion Play is funny, thought provoking and brilliantly acted. Well worth seeing.

It is playing until 3 August.

Read the reviews in the Guardian, Telegraph and Standard

Sarah Southern


Afternoon at the ballet

Although unbelievably hot and sunny in London today I took myself off to the Coliseum to see Coppelia.  The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet have been visiting London for the past week so I was pleased to be able to catch today’s matinee (especially as I snagged a ticket for a fiver). There has been quite a buzz about them being in town mainly due to Sergei Polunin being back in town since he left the Royal Ballet.  The Telegraph and the Standard focused their reviews around the “party animal” of the ballet world.  He was pretty special.  The lady next to me described him as a feather.  She was pretty spot on.  It all looked so effortless.  Totally mesmerising.

Coppelia as a ballet is a little strange.  It is a comedy of sorts.  It is based on a young chap, Franz, who is mesmerised with a woman.  The woman is actually a doll made by a rather sinister inventor.   This fascination distracts him from his true love, Swanhilde.  As you’d expect after a journey of sorts and a bit of a fracas with the inventor Franz and Swanhilde finally wed and all is well with the world.  The story was a little confusing at times but the dancing was worth the confusion!

The English National Ballet will be performing Coppelia in July 2014.


The ENO have some great visiting companies this summer.  And the ROH has the Bolshoi arriving soon.  Looking forward to seeing as many performances as I can.  Keep an eye online for cheaper tickets or indeed the returns queue on the day.

Sarah Southern

Amy Winehouse

The Jewish Museum in Camden has an Amy Winehouse exhibition on until September.  It’s a rather sweet exhibition that has been mainly curated by her brother.  A selection of family photos, clothes from performances, records she loved and indeed a Grammy are all on show.  Go check it out and indeed see the rest of this great museum.

Sarah Southern

Gilbert and George


Was so disappointed to miss Blood at the Royal Opera House last week as I was not too well.  Inspired by the work of Gilbert and George Jean Abreu’s performance had been something I was very much looking forward to.  Disappointment had now faded as my friend treated me to dinner in Dalston last night at Gilbert and George’s nightly Turkish restaurant.  Great food and brilliant atmosphere.  And just wonderful to watch Gilbert and George.  I’m just so intrigued by them.

Sarah Southern

Behind the Candelabra

Worth seeing for Rob Lowe’s performance alone!

This film is a treat from beginning to end.  Michael Douglas is a perfect Liberace.  Such a shame this did not hit the cinemas in the US and went straight to HBO as he would definitely be in line for an Oscar nod.

Make sure you go see it.

Sarah Southern