New Arts Council scheme gives away millions of theatre tickets

By Culture24 Staff | 13 February 2009
A picture of a young man and woman holding theatre tickets in front of a banner for the A Night Less Ordinary scheme

Rupert Penry-Jones and Sheridan Smith launch A Night Less Ordinary. Pic: Jacopo Pandolfi

More than half a million theatre tickets are to be given away to people under 26 in a £2.5 million Arts Council scheme launched by a host of television actors this week.

A Night Less Ordinary, which is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will work with hundreds of venues across the country to offer free tickets for shows from next Monday (February 16 2009).

“Live theatre at its best is a magical experience – it sucks you in and makes you forget everything around you, so I’m all for a scheme that encourages more young people to share that magic,” said Whitechapel star Rupert Penry-Jones at the unveiling of the initiative at London’s Donmar Warehouse Theatre, where he was joined by Grownups and The Royle Family actress Sheridan Smith.

“A Night Less Ordinary is exactly what they need at the moment – with the recession making nights out more of a luxury, here’s something really different young people can enjoy for free. It’s great to see so many theatres across the country working together to make it happen.”

Participating theatres range from village halls to the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. “There is something so amazing about going to the theatre, you lose yourself in the moment – it’s unlike anything else,” said Smith. “I’m really pleased to be supporting a scheme that gives so many young people the opportunity to experience that for themselves.”

A picture of a young male actor in black and white with short dark hair and stubble

James Purefoy is among high-profile supporters backing the initiative

Rome and Solomon Kane star James Purefoy praised “the beauty of this scheme” and predicted that it would create “the habit of a lifetime” for young theatregoers. “Live theatre is like a secret you want to share - exciting, involving and different every time you tell the story,” he added.

Matt Di Angelo, whose roles in Eastenders and Strictly Come Dancing could symbolise the sort of alternative forms of thespian endeavour the Arts Council is trying to distract its potential audience from, said his recent professional stage debut had alerted him to the power of theatre.

“The TV and stage experiences are so different for the actors and the audience,” he reflected. “Live theatre is exhilarating – sitting just a few feet away from the action and seeing words in a book come alive on the stage makes you feel so involved. It’s what made me want to get up there and do it myself.

“I think A Night Less Ordinary is a great idea and I hope thousands of people my age, who maybe think theatre isn’t for them, will give it a go.”

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “A Night Less Ordinary is an extraordinary idea that has been made possible by the co-operation and hard work of theatre professionals all over the country and I’d like to thank them for their efforts.

“I am proud that the Arts Council is leading an initiative that will offer more than half a million opportunities in the next two years for young people to have their lives changed by ground breaking and inspirational theatre.”

Organisers are hoping to extend the offer to other art forms if the campaign proves successful.

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