If you take your Yorkshire Post with your morning coffee, then you can hear me today live at the West Yorkshire Playhouse presenting a special show for BBC Radio Leeds from 9am (if you’re the sort that settles down with our august organ of an evening, I’m afraid you’ve missed me).
The reason I am at the Playhouse is for no reason other than the fact that Yorkshire theatre is worth celebrating. The West Yorkshire Playhouse currently has three shows in different stages of production: Kes is on the stage of the Courtyard, Into the Woods opens next week on the Quarry stage and Alice Nutter’s Barnbow Canaries is in rehearsal, to open at the theatre on June 15. It’s a busy time.
Before we decided to do a special broadcast from the Playhouse today, I was faced with a question from my producers: is it accessible to all? We had to make sure that it was something that is truly available to everyone: the BBC makes programmes for everyone. It was an excellent question and really did give me a pause for thought. Of course the Playhouse is for everyone. Isn’t it?After all, our taxes and lottery money keep it open, pay the salaries of the people in the building, so if it isn’t for everyone then there’s something wrong.
As the conversation about today’s show went on with the various producers involved in making an outside broadcast happen, I realised there was a possible misconception at large.
I’ve always believed that theatre is for everyone, that we are all granted equal access to the artform and the buildings that we ultimately own. But I would believe that: I’m a theatre critic. I realised I ignored the notion, misheld or not, that theatre might not be considered for everyone at my peril. The barriers, I realise, are many, but the two most commonly perceived are of behaviour and finance: ‘isn’t theatre too expensive?’ and ‘don’t I have to dress and act in a certain way?’ are the two questions many face before deciding that theatre isn’t for them.
Number one: the most dressed up I get when I go to the theatre is when I wear my best hoodie. You can wear what you like these days. Much more significant a question is the cost. In a world where we’re all feeling the squeeze, ticket prices could be cheaper.
However, did you know you can get tickets at the Sheffield Crucible for £1 if you go to a dress rehearsal? And you can see a show at the Playhouse for as little as £3? What’s often keeping us out of places like theatres – castles of culture that belong to us all – is our perceptions. Step inside, see if it is for you. And you know what they say, there’s no time like the present.