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Pay What You Decide!

23 July 2016

Ever wanted to go to the theatre but didn’t want to risk it in case it wasn’t your cup of tea? Do you feel you’d like to try out a show before committing the cash? If so, Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre has just the ticket.

This month sees the centre launch its autumn season with a brand new concept: Pay What You Decide – a dynamic new pricing structure that allows audience members to book to see a show at the arts centre without handing over a penny.



Each of the three shows that are part of the scheme will have all seats up for grabs to be reserved with no charge attached: in total, the theatre will be allocating over 750 seats with no upfront charge. Tickets will be available to book in advance as usual – online or through the Box Office – but unlike normal there is no obligation to pay. After the show has finished, audience members can decide individually on a price based on their experience and enjoyment of the evening.

Pay What You Decide is about opening up the doors and encouraging people in. It’s about encouraging existing audiences to experiment and try new things. It’s also a big statement of confidence in the artistic programme.



Programming more live productions than any other theatre in the region, Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre boasts a full range of professional acts: comedians, contemporary theatre, international dance companies, as well as a fantastic range of community and amateur productions – boasting a programme for all ages. Co-Directors Louise Lappin-Cook and Elaine Faull commented: “We programme 160 evenings of live performance annually: from national names to community shows, from touring ballet to some of the UKs finest speakers and musicians. While we know comedians and top international speakers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes will instantly capture the public’s imagination, there are thousands of staggeringly good national and regional theatre and dance companies that remain somewhat under the radar. This scheme is about profiling those companies – who are at the forefront of invention and creativity – and expanding audiences.”



The programming team at Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre have hand-picked a selection of shows which give a real flavour of the kind of drama they like to showcase – from bold, imaginative theatre for younger audiences from PaddleBoat Theatre Company, to some of the finest comic acting and socially engaging work produced in the UK, as Paines Plough explore depression in the critically-acclaimed Every Brilliant Thing, to spell-binding storytelling, puppetry and physical theatre from Smoking Apples Theatre Company who present In Our Hands.

 “We know for many families money is tight, and if you are going to spend your hard-earned money it’s safer to go with what you know – children’s theatre is a prime example of this,” said Elaine. “Well-known texts and acts sell brilliantly and panto-style, up-tempo shows always capture the public imagination. But Britain is home to some of the world’s most imaginative children’s theatre: interactive shows, puppetry, circus-inspired productions and children’s book adaptations. PaddleBoat are a wonderful example of a young, cutting edge company bursting with imagination; we can’t wait to share their work more widely with local audiences.”

At the core of the Pay What You Decide programme is experimentation and encouraging audiences to try new things: be it a new kind of storytelling or seeing puppetry for the first time.

“We want this to be a personal thing,” said Louise. “Going to the theatre is about entertainment and experience, not money, and while staging and touring shows undeniably costs, we want people to pay because they value and appreciate what they’ve seen rather than feeling contractually bound. We are especially hoping that those local residents who have not yet had the chance to see a show in our lovely venue, or new families that have just moved to the area might come along and see what all the fuss is about. We’ve got a staggering autumn season and we’ve picked a range of shows to reflect this. PWYD (Pay What You Decide) allows audiences to be more experimental by removing the financial risk of buying a ticket. It’s quite simple: if you don’t like it you don’t pay. No guilt. No hard-sell. This is about responding to what you see, voting with your feet and enjoying the magic of a live show.”



As well as the PWYD scheme, this season sees the arts centre launch a host of opportunities for audiences to get more involved in their work. As well as launching a Friends and Corporate Members scheme the centre will also be running a prize draw (winners to be announced in December) to win a pair of free annual passes to all productions throughout 2017. And on Saturday September 17th the centre launches a ‘Have a Go’ day where adults and young people can try out the incredible array of community classes for free.

“We are always looking for new ways to engage with audiences and encourage new people to visit the centre – be it through our community tickets scheme, open days, community classes, productions and workshops or outreach work. PWYD is our way of making a statement to visitors,” said Elaine. “We are so confident that they will enjoy themselves that they can come and see some of our highest quality drama for free.” The scheme, which has also been trialled in venues in Stockton and Yorkshire has seen huge successes and record audience attendance. So book early to avoid disappointment!


Information on participating shows in the PWYD Scheme:


Margo & Mr Whatsit, Sat 17 September 2:30pm - PaddleBoat Theatre Company

Margo and Mr Whatsit is PaddleBoat Theatre Company’s latest family show. Founded in 2014 by four Exeter University graduates PaddleBoat Theatre Company combine skills in performing, producing, writing, directing, puppetry, storytelling and live music to develop shows and tell stories guaranteed to set little imaginations alight. They visited Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre earlier in the year with their beautiful and stunningly inventive show ‘According to Arthur’ and so spell-bound were the audience that we couldn’t resist inviting them back with their new show: Margo & Mr Whatsit! A playful family show about imaginary friends and growing up.

Mr. Whatsit is Sophia’s best friend. He’s always there with a new joke to tell and a new game to play – that is, until the day she unimagines him. Now Sophia has a new imaginary friend – the tea-drinking, lipstick-wearing, ever-confident Margo. Can Mr. Whatsit’s childish playfulness keep him from being unimagined forever? A lively, make-believe tale full of clowning, puppetry, live music and object play!


Every Brilliant Thing, Mon 19 Sept 7:30pm - Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre

Every Brilliant Thing comes to Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre fresh from an international tour spanning Spoleto Festival USA, Melbourne, critically two acclaimed sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival, New York’s Barrow Street Theatre, and a UK tour. Described by London’s Time Out as “beautiful, heart-wrenching and very funny” play Every Brilliant Thing is about finding reasons to live when all hope seems lost. A man looks back at a list he began as a child to help his depressed mother rediscover joy—a list of “every brilliant thing” worth living for. Beginning with “1. Ice cream,” the list grows as the boy grows up, and soon takes on a life of its own. Performed by Jonny Donahoe Every Brilliant Thing explores the lengths people go to for those they love.

“a piece that demonstrates why life is worth living—you’ll leave feeling elated” (The Scotsman).


In Our Hands, Tues 1 Nov 7:30pm - Smoking Apples

Last year they wowed us with Cell. This year Smoking Apples return with the story of Alf, a trawler fisherman whose experience, camaraderie and loyalty have put him and his boat at the top of the game. But times are changing and so is the industry. How will Alf adapt in order to survive?

Follow a fish’s journey from sea to plate, watch a seagull’s ridiculous attempt to find food and witness a father and son reunite.

In Our Hands will transport you out to sea, under the ocean and onto the deck of the Catcher’s Fortune. Using innovative puppetry, a striking set and an original score, join Alf as he journeys from the depths of despair to rise again and rescue the life he loves. Smoking Apples are an award winning puppetry and visual theatre company and one not to miss!