Stage and screen actors Rupert Penry-Jones and Sheridan Smith were on hand at the Donmar Warehouse today to help launch A Night Less Ordinary, the Arts Council England’s new free ticket scheme for young people.
The pair lent their support to the new initiative which aims to reach those young people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to the theatre by offering half a million free theatre tickets to under 26-year-olds across more than 200 venues in the UK, over a two-year period.
Managed by Arts Council England, A Night Less Ordinary is facilitated by a £2.5million grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Speaking at the launch today, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said: “This scheme is an example of one of my core political beliefs that the best things in life should be open to everyone to enjoy.”
Burnham said the pilot scheme, which intends to build a new generation of theatre audiences in the UK, takes its cue from the government’s policy of giving free access to museums and galleries, which resulted in attendances doubling and became a permanent policy.
Penry-Jones, who began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company before taking television roles in Spooks, Persuasion and Whitechapel, said he enjoyed performing to young audiences and felt that the experience of seeing live theatre was “far more exciting than watching a film”. He added: “The experience that you have is magical. I think it’s something that everybody should have the chance to experience.”
Penry-Jones and Smith – who recently appeared in the West End in Little Shop Of Horrors – are among several names backing the scheme, along with Loot star Matt Di Angelo and James Purefoy, of the TV series Rome.
Among the 200 venues taking part in A Night Less Ordinary are many in London, including a consortium of 12 off-West End theatres which comprises the Almeida theatre, BAC, Bush theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Greenwich theatre, Hampstead theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Court, Soho theatre, Tricycle theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Young Vic.
To celebrate the launch of the scheme, many theatres are holding special events, including post show talks, masterclasses and workshops. For more information and to find out how to get free tickets for shows in participating theatres from 16 February, visit www.anightlessordinary.org.uk.