Such sweet sorrow for Travelex and the National
The love affair between the National Theatre and the foreign exchange company Travelex was a dramatic romance, the equal of Antony and Cleopatra’s. Both partners got just the boost they needed. The National enjoyed the sponsorship of a cheap ticket scheme that, since its launch in 2003 by Nicholas Hytner (above, with some NT stars and Lloyd Dorfmann of Travelex), has given 3 million people access to more than 70 shows, creating an awardwinning model for subsidised entertainment. Travelex got high-profile, glamorous publicity.
Yet like all great affairs it has come to an end – or will do next year. Rufus Norris, artistic director of the London theatre, puts its demise down to the fact there is “no longer the right fit”. But, like Cleopatra, he still has immortal longings for the scheme under a new sponsor.
The threat to cheap tickets that have become part of the cultural landscape is troubling. And just as troubling is the lack of fuss so far. As Caesar says of Antony’s death: “The breaking of so great a thing should make/ A greater crack.”
The answer may lie in coming up with a fresh formula for increased public access, possibly including cheaper tickets for touring shows. For now, it is vital that the scheme does not fade away without a noise.