Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A Musing; you get what you pay for.

I've been thinking recently about value for money when it comes to entertainment and theatre. The thing is, we are as a nation, a big bunch of complainers and for some it's what they do best and, having said that, I do think that when it is justified then you are absolutely within your rights to complain; there's a fly in my soup and all that.

But when it comes to something as objective as art where can you draw the line? If someone leaves a theatre having not liked what they saw and subsequently asks for a refund then I think we are straying into a gray area.

Sometimes it's black; Disgruntled Patron - "I found that offensive, there was nudity, swearing and people making jam out of baptised babies!" Helpful Steward - "Oh I am sorry Sir/Madam (NB: I'm all about equal ops when it comes to complainers!) Did you not read the disclaimer on the flyer/poster/ticket - Warning; May Contain Baby Jam? I'm afraid you were made aware and as such we cannot issue a refund in this instance".

And sometimes it's white; Disgruntled Patron - "Excuse me, I paid to see the Sound of Music and what I got was an angry lesbian shouting expletives at me for most of the evening" Helpful, albeit foul-mouthed, Steward - "Well fuck me and call me Wendy, you are absolutely fucking right, that was unexpected, here's your fucking money back".

But then there's the grey area of "Well I just plain didn't like that, can I have my money back?". No you can't. It can't be helped if it wasn't your cup of tea now can it? That's the risk you take when engaging in culturally stimulating activities such as going to the theatre now isn't it?

Now I don't mean to sound like a pretentious twit but to me that is much the same as ordering something in restaurant, eating every last morsel and then at the very end claiming it wasn't up to much and you'd really rather not pay for it. Tough tittie, you ate it!

I am going somewhere with this; although I think art is objective and you can't justifiably ask for a refund just because you didn't like something I do firmly believe in giving someone what they pay for. If you charge them £20 for something then you darn well give them £20 worth of a good time, on all counts. Quality of show, venue, service delivery - the whole shebang has to be top notch for £20, particularly at Fringe time.

The only thing I have dished out £20 of my hard earned (and in short supply *sob*) cash for this year is La Clique and even with a show of this calibre I still have a couple of minor suggestions on how to make that £20 go a little farther.
Let me preface this by saying that the show and quality of acts at La Clique is so amazingly high that you do forget the cost but...
The close to 2 hour long queue to get a seat (just a seat, not even a decent seat) is a bit much therefore I would suggest for £20 you get an assigned seat and for those of us that don't get into that queue in time or rather don't want to have to stand in the rain for nearly 2 hours should pay slightly less for a standing ticket, which makes up half of their house anyway.
Given the nature of the venue and the way they pack them in there is restricted viewing and quite frankly a bit of a battle for a decent viewpoint - again, someone in this position shouldn't have to pay the same amount as those sat comfortably at the front.
Secondly; by running things in this manner you are narrowing your audience - for those who are disabled or elderly, do they have to queue for the two hours to get a seat?

However, these are minor gripes (this is a blog based on complaints after all) as I have yet to encounter a dissatisfied La Clique customer.

What does seem to have produced many an unhappy and disgruntled customer however is Club Noir's Edinburgh Fringe Show this year, which is plain from the reviews at I have to confess I wasn't in attendance but a few people I know were and the general consensus was not positive. In addition to this the majority of the complaints are the same ones I had last year, as I was at that one.
My issues were with a number of things; ramming a venue that, had it been at the appropriate capacity levels would have been perfectly suitable to a cabaret show to the point of bursting - it was hot, unpleasant, you couldn't see a thing if you weren't right at the front and you couldn't get near the bar for love nor money. Now these are the sorts of complaints you expect from a dirty techno night where everyone is too off their tits to care, not a burlesque club.

What I want to know was Club Noir at the Fringe a night club with a show tacked on or a show that has descended into a night club? It seems that their advertising has led a lot of people who bought tickets and left disappointed or angry this year to believe they were getting a sit-down cabaret show when actual fact they were going to a burlesque/fetish themed night club where the intention is to get wrecked while a show goes on in the background. Those who did just that, and had a great time it would seem (which is totally fine and I'm glad) appear to be Club Noir regulars (at least that's what this years reviews have led me to believe) and as such know what to expect and pay little heed to the quality of the show as long as they get a little bit of glitz.

Now, for £20 (which is what a Club Noir ticket cost this year plus booking fee) you have an obligation to give your audience a brilliant experience all round - which they do in Glasgow at their regular nights at the Carling Academy - and at the Fringe when drink prices are high and people come from all across the country you can't afford to scrimp. It's unethical to pack them in like sardines and not care much for the quality of the rest of the experience just to maintain the tag-line - "the biggest burlesque club in the world". Biggest night club or show? In terms of numbers through the door for a night club of this genre certainly, but in terms of showmanship and burlesque entertainment, absolutely not.

From the sounds of things I would have asked for my money back as well and to be honest I would have done so last year as well if I had actually paid for the ticket.

And to sign off; Jim Bowen was part of their line-up? Again, you are paying 20 quid for a show whose directors have clearly not thought through their programming to the benefit of their audience. He may be a pop-culture icon but you don't need to read the dreadful reviews he is getting this year to realise that perhaps he is not ideal for the cutting edge show that Club Noir inaccurately claims to be.

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