Such sweet sor­row for Trav­elex and the Na­tional

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis -

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.

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