Pay what you think: the play at Diss Corn Hall where you decide how much it’s worth – and can walk out without paying a penny
- Credit: Archant
Allowing harsh theatre critics to only pay what they think a show is worth might seem like a strange way to try and make a profit.
But now, a newly-refurbished Norfolk theatre is staging a show which allows people, if they wish, to walk out saying: 'I'm not paying for this!'
Whereas most shows have a standard ticket price that is paid in advance or on the door, audience members at the performance of Every Brilliant Thing at Diss' new Corn Hall on Friday, May 19 will only have to pay once they've seen the play.
At the end they will have an envelope where they put in whatever amount they want, based on how much they enjoyed the performance and thought it was worth.
If they want, they can return an empty envelope and walk out of the St Nicholas Street theatre having enjoyed – or endured, depending on their view – a free performance.
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But rather than taking advantage of a potential freebie Vivian Ezugha, community touring assistant at Creative Arts East – which has helped organise the event – said people tend to do the opposite.
'It's about how they feel,' she explained.
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'If they found it interesting, they will give generously. If they didn't like it, they will give what they would've expected to pay for a ticket.
'We haven't come across anyone who hasn't paid.'
Why do people give generously when they don't have to?
Pay-what-you-think schemes have become common in London and at big events like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – but this is the first time it has been brought to rural Norfolk.
At bigger shows, the guilt factor is perhaps at play – people often have to put their contributions in a bucket at the end and, if they haven't paid anything, it will be obvious for all to see.
'Having an envelope eliminates that guilt tactic,' Ms Ezugha said.
But if anything, one would have thought that would only embolden those who want to get out of paying.
However Ms Ezugha said: 'A lot of people are coming to these shows are not just coming to see the performance. They are coming to use the venue.
'They will give based on the relationship with the promoter and they will give more to help things happening in their community.'
With Diss' Corn Hall having recently reopened after two years following a £1.25m revamp, organisers will be hoping those attending Every Brilliant Thing will want to support the venue as it embarks on a new future.
Arts venues up and down the country have long faced the challenge of how to attract new audience when many people are trying to save cash.
The idea of pay-what-you-think is therefore designed to 'ensure everyone can enjoy a bit of quality theatre and new arts experiences that are out there', Ms Ezugha said.
Although she said 'our promoters always choose a price they know is affordable', it can still be difficult to attract new viewers.
A ticket price might also give audiences 'preconceived ideas about what they're getting', she said – which affects their view of the performance at the end, as they judge it against the entry fee.
With pay-what-you-think, audiences instead go in open-minded because they know that ultimately, they don't lose anything by going to a show they don't have to pay for.
Karen Kidman, community touring manager at Creative Arts East, added: 'We want to ensure that everyone can enjoy the best quality theatre and new arts experiences but feel set ticket prices can sometimes be preventative.
'We are confident in the quality of work we present and we trust our audiences judgment to be considered and appropriate and at a level that they can afford.
'We want to ensure new audiences can try great work, and new work has great audiences.'
About Every Brilliant Thing
Every Brilliant Thing is a play about depression which will be performed by theatre company Paines Plough at Diss Corn Hall on Friday, May 19, starting at 8pm.
Booking is essential at www.thecornhall.co.uk