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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Video trailers and theatre - Don't show the art, it might put people off.

I am of course joking. Whenever the topic of using video to promote live theatre comes up it seems someone always cites the film industry and says "why don't we make trailers for theatre like they do for films?" All I can say is, I guess these people don't go to the pictures very often or if they do, they talk through the trailers (I really hate people who do that).

The quick edits, dialogue taken out of context and endless action, the restyling of thought provoking and tragic stories as light hearted comedies or fast paced shoot 'em ups has made the film trailer an object of study in its own right, but one that often bears no resemblance to the finished article. Good fun and something to be enjoyed at the cinema, but a dangerous path for theatre to follow if you want to find new audiences, and retain the trust of existing ones.

It is important we understand the product we are dealing with, and the potential audience for it. You can't make every show appear to be the most fun you will ever have at the theatre because it probably won't be. I certainly don't see the point of cutting endlessly to hide what the work looks like in the hope of attracting an audience who otherwise would not attend. It is of course a slippery slope once you start. But it becomes even more slippery when the film industry is used as the model.

If video is going to play a role in attracting audiences to theatre it has to do so by informing them, not lying to them. By all means sell the sizzle, not the steak (as the saying goes) but let's not confuse or mislead people into thinking our lovely prize steak is a dirty Big Mac (I love eating Big Mac's, I just don't class them as food).

While we are here let's look at how the film marketing industry has treated some of the film versions of theatre.

Sweeney Todd  Not sure who would have been more surprised, Sondheim or the audience who didn't realise it was a musical.

The History Boys Did Alan Bennett really write in his screenplay - the young man breakdances?

East is East An improvement on the tube poster which only featured the dog! Check out that copyline; A comedy of families, a chip shop, and a very randy dog. God forbid anyone finding out it was about Asians.

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