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Richard III draws first time audience

Published 19 September 2014

Jamie Lloyd has revealed that 55% of theatregoers attending a performance of his Martin Freeman-led Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios have been first time West End theatregoers.

The Artistic Director of the innovative Trafalgar Transformed seasons revealed the staggering statistic at a press event earlier this week which brought together the cast of Richard III with the company of East Is East, as the latter prepare to follow in the former’s critically acclaimed footsteps when they begin their run as part of the season next month.

“The figures have gone up for Richard III,” the director, whose inaurgural season at the Trafalgar Studios including the James McAvoy-led Macbeth, explained. “On a Monday night [in which all tickets are priced £15 and half are made available to young audiences] 61% are first-time theatregoers. Across the whole run…it is 55% who have never been to the West End, so it’s a pretty cool thing. There’s a buzz, an excitement and an electricity, which I haven’t experienced in many theatres.”

Lloyd, who spoke of his aspiration to create “a theatre with no airs and graces”, impressed upon the attendees the importance of these performances, explaining: “On £15 Mondays it’s not just a bargain for theatregoers who come all the time; half of those tickets are put aside and targeted to people and used via organisations like Mousetrap Theatre Projects. We’ve had groups of former offenders, we’ve had groups of carers and people who are in care… I’m from quite a humble background and I didn’t really go to the theatre until I was 17, so I really feel like there’s a joy to be had in sharing my excitement of it.”

This joy was also clearly present in the gathered Richard III cast members. Freeman, who described the behaviour of the young audience members as “exemplary”, raved about the initiative, claiming Monday nights were one his favourite things about the experience, saying: “The young element in this run has been, and continues to be, one of my real pleasures.. It feels alive, it feels like the energy is crackling in the room.”

This week’s press Q&A saw one key difference in the Trafalgar Transformed’s now traditional cast crossover event. For the first time ever the baton is being passed not only between productions, but also between directors, as Sam Yates prepares to become the only other director to present work in Lloyd’s seasons.

With the emerging director keen to keep secret as much about how East Is East will take inspiration from the season’s name to offer a fresh take to the space as possible, Yates offered just a few tantalising hints, saying: “It’s a non-literal design … we [Yates and designer Tom Scutt] didn’t want to be slavishly naturalistic. We wanted to keep the story moving and keep everyone’s eyes on the actors’ roles rather than something flying on stage.”

Starring Jane Horrocks and the cult comedy’s playwright Ayub Khan Din, Lloyd revealed that, like every production in his two seasons so far, East Is East had been on his wish list. “It’s one of the all-time great British plays,” he explained. “The minute Jane Horrocks, who I think is one of our finest actresses, wanted to do it, I was like ‘We’ve just got to absolutely make sure that this happens.’”

While Lloyd named no names as to which other plays are on this so far hit-making wish list, he did reveal that his own production company, Jamie Lloyd Productions, had commissioned a selection of new plays from “cool” playwrights with the hope a piece of new writing would end up on the Trafalgar Transformed line-up. The director also revealed that he had a production planned for later in the season which “is a genuinely radical transformation of this space”.  

While we’ll have to wait for details of what that production might be, audiences have just over a week left to catch Freeman as the treacherous monarch Richard III before the show makes way for East Is East from 4 October.

"I’m from quite a humble background and I didn’t really go to the theatre until I was 17, so I really feel like there’s a joy to be had in sharing my excitement.”

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