Social Currency: The Haymarket, The Goat, and the 21st century Audience

Edward Albee’s The Goat meets the Theatre Royal Haymarket; absurdity on the stage meets the conventionality of the third-oldest London playhouse still in use. Like any other playhouse, the Haymarket faces the task of balancing artistry with profit. The Goat and its cast are interesting choices that I want to unpack from a financial perspective, taking into consideration the aesthetic of the Haymarket Theatre.

In her 2016 essay titled “The Financial Performance of London-based theatres; a step towards business entities?”, Meghna Goyda identifies that there are two main business models followed by theatre companies: commercial and not-for-profit. While the Theatre Royal Haymarket is definitely a commercial theatre company, profit is something they struggle with. As company secretary John Lawrie states in fiscal 2016’s Strategic Review, “2015 opened with Harvey, which attracted little business, in contrast to The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper – one of the most successful runs the theatre has had.” According to Goyda, “although theatres exist within a financial market, several establishments struggle to sustain financial stability while simultaneously pursuing innovative artistic excellence.” The Haymarket seems to have found a special ingredient within this mix: casting film actors.

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Theater Royal Haymarket

The Goat features two familiar faces in two of the show’s four characters: Damian Lewis as Martin and Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo as Stevie. There is no denying that having both actors’ names and faces boldly printed across the poster that will be circling both online and in tangible platforms (as well as hanging grandly beside the white columns that stand hauntingly at the theatre’s entrance) will catch the eye of potential audience members. “That’s the guy from ‘Homeland!’” is certain to be a common response to the poster.

For a theatre that has to be money-conscious in response to previous net losses, the market dictates the entirety of the Haymarket, right down to its design.

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Divided entrances

The theatre’s exterior structure divides the audience financially from the moment they enter the theatre – you select which of the multiple doors to enter through based on whether your seat is in the stalls or high up in the gallery, revealing to your fellow theatre-goers how much you spent on a ticket. Could it be that this financial division divides the collectivity of the audience? Despite the fact that this division is a result of John Nash’s architectural design from 1821, it still establishes a sense of time travel that elicits ideas of squeaky floors, moldy walls, and hierarchical conservatism. And while at 20 I do not necessarily fit into the Haymarket’s target market, a 21st century audience gets excited about newness. As a result of staging The Goat, however, a modern audience is able to revel in a 2002 Tony-Award winning, boundary-moving tragedy within a traditionally bound space. This combination may prove to be both financially successful, and politically advantageous, for the Haymarket, as it satisfies the audience and reels in the West End cash. The Goat may have been the perfect choice to increase profitability in both financial and social markets for the Haymarket.

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Theatre Royal Haymarket 

I would like to end with this: no matter what my opinion was on Edward Albee’s The Goat, or on the Haymarket’s strategies to enhance its financial performance, I would not have been able to understand the Haymarket in the way I feel I do now without being there in person. I have read and researched the space to the ends of the Internet for my final project in Destination Theatre, but physically being surrounded by the secret-packed walls was incomparable. As much as you can learn about a place, it can still feel unfamiliar, and I’m thankful the theatre and I have now been introduced.

 

 

Works Cited

Goyda, Meghna. “The Financial Performance of London-based theatres; a step towards business entities?” Academia.edu. http://www.academia.edu/29221917/The_Financial_Performance_of_London-based_theatres_a_step_towards_business_entities

“Theatre History.” Theatre Royal Haymarket. Accessed May 16th, 2017. http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/haymarket001.html

“Theatre Royal Haymarket Limited.” Companies House. Accessed May 16, 2017. https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/00242846

 

Feeling the Cultural Fabric

Theatre is a passion of mine. I can obsess over the Broadway headliners, I will dance around my house to opening numbers from big-band musicals, and I will recite trivia back and forth about original casts and script changes.

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Me in “Little Women”, 2012

During high school, my brother and I performed together in multiple productions and competitions for musical theatre, voice, and dance. Theatre became the thing that bonded my family, and we attended a theatre performance of some level and genre probably 3 to 4 times per week. We were season ticket holders at multiple companies, we knew the casts, we were friends with the directors, and we indulged in a lot of theatre.

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Myself and my brother as Danny Zuko in “Grease”, Calgary, 2016

Since coming to Western, my schedule has gradually become jam-packed and my intake of theatre has gone down. Instead, I choose to use theatre as a research topic for independent projects – I was even selected to present my research about West Side Story at the Western Student Research Conference last year. But then I found Destination Theatre, and I knew I had to enroll in this course. Not only does this course combine theatre and travel, but it allows students to actually experience performances, not just study them, and to experience some of the best theatre the world has to offer.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2015

I imagine Destination Theatre will provide me with an opportunity to further my experience of theatre through an academic lens, in addition to being a fan and advocate of the art. I hope to also broaden my international experience, though the thought of flying to the UK by myself brings me nauseating visions of lost passports and stolen luggage. I think what I’m most excited for is to experience something new. I’ve been so privileged as to have visited the West End before, and this time I want to see something innovative and unapologetic, something unpredictable and inspiring. I want to see something that I wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else, something that I can’t really describe because I don’t know that it exists yet. I also want to have a completely new experience, not just inside the theatres, but within the cultural fabric that connects the London theatre community with the city at large. I want to witness everyday performances: public transit riders, high-end retail workers, dive bar waiters.

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The Audience of “As You Like It”, The Globe, London, 2015

During past trips, I’ve kept a list of random things that remind me of events, even if it’s just one word. For Destination Theatre, I plan on this list becoming a source of inspiration that I can keep coming back to for creative inspiration or academic motivation. Theatre will always be part of my life – whether woven into my career or as a weekend escape, I plan to always collect playbills and to find old ticket stubs in my coat pockets.

I plan to keep track of the everyday performances.

Morgan McAuley is a second-year student studying English Language & Literature and Advanced Arts & Humanities at Western University. She is from Calgary, Alberta.