I go to the theatre a lot so know how to navigate what are, particularly in London’s West End, often old, cramped buildings. The foyers are fit only for manoeuvring through (compare the foyer entertaining spaces at newer theatres such as the Bridge Theatre and Young Vic), the corridors spiral and undulate past mysterious doors, and you’re summarily dumped out of a fire exit once the performance is over.
Attending a West End show this week, I reflected on how this must feel as a first-time visitor. Is this the queue to pick up the tickets? Where are the toilets? If I go through this door, will I be able to come back? How can I meet my friend when we’re not encouraged - nay, allowed - to linger?
The staff can only default to herding visitors to the next location.
These buildings cannot keep up with our expectations of how we use arts spaces, as places to socialise and work as much as to watch a show. Their transactional nature makes them intimidating and unappealing to all but seasoned visitors. There is no opportunity to play.