26 January, 2013

Thumbs down for the National

Last weekend we were looking forward to an exciting family treat involving both kids and grandparents -- dinner out in London, followed by the evening performance of 'Hansel and Gretel' at the Cotteslowe Theatre at the National. But things didn't go quite as planned...

Snow had fallen on the Friday, so we checked that our route was clear beforehand and set out early, arriving at the National with time to have a coffee and look round the shop before meeting the grandparents. So far, so good.

We were just settling down with our menus in the Mezzanine restaurant, when an announcement came across the tannoy: 'We regret to announce that we have had to cancel this evening's performance of "Hansel and Gretel"'. No explanation as to why. We were somewhat surprised and somewhat disappointed, to put it mildly. But there was nothing we could do except make the best of it and enjoy our meal.

When we went down to the box office to ask what was going on, we were told that one of the principal actors had fallen ill after the matinee and, as the Cotteslowe runs at a loss, they don't employ understudies. So the show couldn't go on.

We got our money back, but the explanation for cancellation seemed lame, to say the least. Surely it shouldn't be that difficult to cover for such an eventuality? It is the National after all. Plenty of understudies around for the other theatres in the complex. Why not have them double up and understudy for the Cottesloe too? Or, for that matter, many of the waiters in the Mezzanine restaurant are young actors trying to make it. I'm sure they'd jump at the chance to understudy as well as wait -- even if the understudying wasn't paid. What an opportunity for an aspiring actor to fill in at the National, after all!

So, we'd travelled 65 miles in snowy conditions with excited children for what turned out to be a non-event. Actually, the kids were fantastic, accepting the situation with equanimity and simply being pleased to see their grandparents. But the whole fiasco may well make us think twice about booking tickets for the Cottesloe in the future. I'm sure others are thinking the same. Not a good thing for a theatre that already runs at a loss, is it?

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