Many folks working in the performing arts will tell you that one of the biggest problems they have is actually getting people into the theatre in the first place. Judging by the behaviour of certain ushers at one particular theatre last week (as witnessed by members of TheLab™) the problem they had was people actually daring to show up.
You would think that paying for a ticket would give you some sort of license to hang about after the show was over for a chat with your fellow patrons about the virtues (or not) of the work you had just witnessed.
Not so in some places apparently because as soon as you're done with all that pesky clapping and cheering you can bloody well get out and go home.
If you like, you can hang about in the overpriced and somewhat soulless bar area and have at it but after being tossed out of the auditorium by overbearing ushers why would you bother?
Some theatres have a tendency to operate like high end clothes stores. You know the ones; They never have any people in them and are staffed out with snooty, overly made-up individuals who, upon seeing you enter, give you the once over with a half cocked smile and a look in their eyes that says "you don't belong, this store if for anybody but you!"
Time To Go
We get that people who work in a theatre might want to go home but if you don't like being out late then perhaps the theatre is not your game, so to speak. The folks who paid for the ticket, and in most cases towards the subsidies that help keep the theatre operating, have come for a night out which means, more often than not, staying up past 10pm.
They also want to enjoy a polite, calm, welcoming experience when they come to your venue. Being herded about like cattle in an abattoir and then chucked out with the garbage at the end is not conducive to a pleasant evening.
Here in the most bitter north we have Northern Stage. After a very expensive refurbishment they ended up with one of the nicest restaurant/bar areas we've ever seen in a theatre. The food is good, the service is efficient and you can hang around as long as you like, or at least until it closes, after the show is over.
It might not be the cheapest place in the city (it is certainly not the most expensive) but it actually has an atmosphere that makes people want to stay.
Every theatre in the country should try and mimic the Northern Stage experience. Of course, some theatres do just that but far too many don't. It might be bizarre to suggest this but some theatrical venues seem to have a people problem.
Absolutely every facet of a theatrical venue should be geared toward making the people who come there (performers and audience) feel as welcome as they possibly can because why would anybody want to come to a place that is hostile, unpleasant and expensive?
If you run a theatre and the bar area and other social spaces are miserable, cold and unwelcoming then fix them. If your staff are sullen, uncooperative and rude then get new staff or beef up your training to include a whole day on "How Not To Be A Git and Other Tales".
Getting people through the door is hard, in fact it's very hard if not nigh on impossible at times, so when they do come make sure they have an experience they will never forget. That's how you get them to come back, over and over again.
It's amazing what you can achieve with a pleasant demeanour, a bit of patience and some, dare we say it, charm!
Theatres can't do much about the quality of the work in a show but they can do everything to set the tone of a patrons personal experience. It's not about getting people in and out as fast as possible so you can lock up and go home. That's what Ryanair do, and we all know just how much everybody hates that wretched company.