Jez Butterworth’s The River at the Royal Court: pre show thoughts and nerves

Tonight is the first preview of Jez Butterworth’s The River and we have tickets. No thanks to me as my attempts online were a complete and utter failure, but thanks to revstan who queued at the theatre (she wrote two lovely posts about the experience here and here – everything you wanted to know about the excitement of queuing and never dared to ask).

Very few productions deserve a pre performance post. Jez Butterworth’s The River is one of those productions. His next play after Jerusalem was always destined to be an event. But Royal Court left nothing to chance: the production (directed  by Ian Rickson, with a cast that includes Miranda Raison and Dominic West no less) plays at the Jerwood theatre upstairs. An 80 seater at the best of times, rumour has it that for this production it’s only 60 seats. Not much larger than someone’s living room. Most crucially tickets can only be purchased on the day of the performance. This decision, which penalises theatregoes who don’t live in London and regular Royal Court audiences, was, in my opinion, at best misguided, at worst cynical. What’s beyond doubt is the controversy it created. Along with the regular complains, discussion focused on the new practice of paid queuing. If Royal Court wanted to give everyone the same chance, you have to consider whether it achieved exactly the opposite.

But today these objections don’t matter. Royal Court will be buzzing, very little is known about the play and we are all in for a surprise (one way or another). And I talked about nerves. My nerves that is. It’s the dread and excitement revstan has been talking about. I used to get very nervous going to the theatre. I could envisage myself in the place of the actor when something goes wrong and my heart would pound. I learned to enjoy this, nerves, butterflies and all. Live performance. This is what’s all about.

Update 20/10/2012: you can find my review of the production here.

2 responses to “Jez Butterworth’s The River at the Royal Court: pre show thoughts and nerves

  1. I hope you will enjoy it – it has the potential to be incredible. But I hate with a fiery passion what they’ve done in terms of the tickets. It is a ridiculous inversion of ‘the fans have all bought tickets regardless a year in advance’.

    • I am with you. I can’t see any justification for this policy, the only thing I can say in Royal Court’s defense is I think it was bad judgement and not cynical marketing (because even as a marketing stragegy it doesn’t work).

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