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.
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.
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.
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.
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