Feature: Royal Court Sells Friends Down The River

In tough economic times for the arts, membership schemes provide much needed support. Not only do venues benefit from the income such schemes bring but it engenders a sense of brand loyalty from customers in a highly competitive market.

As loyal supporters of your venue you want to keep members on side but it looks like The Royal Court has scored something of an own goal with its announcement of their new season.

A frequent complaint from Royal Court members in the past was that the new season announcement was frequently made only 30 minutes before tickets went on sale, leaving little time to consult diaries and plan your season’s theatre going.

There was therefore something of a collective sigh of relief when the season was announced the day before tickets went on sale. As emails landed in inboxes it looked a bumper season, with new plays by Jez Butterworth, Caryl Churchill , Martin Crimp, E.V.Crowe, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Lucy Kirkwood.

It is only when scanning further down the email that the good news fades. Under the entry for The River, Jez Butterworth the following is printed in bold text;

“Due to anticipated demand we regret that there are no Friends, Stage-Taker or Ice-Breaker tickets available in advance for this production.. ….. “

The mail goes on to explain that there are ‘simply not enough tickets’ for friends and supporters to book tickets.

Instead the theatre will be selling the show on a day ticket basis, releasing that day’s seats at 9am daily.
That’s all very well for those with time to either queue or battle the IT to try and obtain tickets each day but what about those who live outside London or whose work schedule precludes them for dropping everything at 9am each day?

Dissatisfaction soon began to be voiced on Twitter and The Royal Court responded….
“We hope this way is fairer – meaning anyone can see the show (not just high level supporters). It’s an intimate 3-hander & JTU best suits the play artistically. It’s a v small capacity & if sold in advance there wouldn’t even be enough tix for members to buy 2 each. We wanted everyone to have a fair chance of seeing Jez’s new play.Day seats available online and in-person.”

Fairer yes if you can drop everything at a moment’s notice but judging by the twitter reaction today it’s not a policy that will win The Royal Court many fans.

Did anyone in The Royal Court’s development team seek any feedback before implementing this change of policy?

Membership isn’t cheap but while no scheme can ever guarantee availability for popular shows, there seems to be a complete disregard for loyal customers here.

I for one have today emailed The Royal Court to explain why I won’t be renewing my membership when it expires later this year, transferring my support to organisations who listen to their supporters. I have yet to receive a reply….

RevStan has also eloquently shared her views on the subject here

UPDATE: I’ve now had a reply from The Royal Court – details here

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