‘Provincial Theatre’; the name alone conjures up a terrifying world of underpowered Oscar Wilde revivals, a myriad number of unnecessary Noel Coward productions and a one-man show featuring Simon Callow, heavy sideburns and a troop of Dickensian characters. One imagines the blue rinse brigade being out in force and St John’s Ambulance on standby.
So if this is the case then why I am cursing to myself about both my inadequate timekeeping and the sheer lunacy of trying to claim that Kings Cross and St Pancras are the same station? Why am I hurtling along, judiciously placing sharp elbows into the sides of unaware and unamused French tourists as they gather in the middle of the thoroughfare, just about managing to leap onto the 09.55 to Sheffield with not a moment to spare?
This urgency is caused by the fact that the Crucible is not some ordinary out-of-town theatre. Admittedly the first poster I see is advertising Callow in a Dickens adaptation entitled Dr Marigold and Mr Chops (careful Simon, carry on at this rate and you put at risk your national treasure status), but that I feel is the exception rather than the rule.
The Crucible has been transformed into one of the great regional theatres with an illustrious reputation, and not just for hosting the snooker. A theatre space built with the audience in mind; what the chairs’ may lack in Regency comfort is given back in the form of a utilitarian space that manages to ensure that 980 people can be seated in a manner that allows no-one to be more than 20 metres from the stage. This, to give it some perspective, is the approximate length of a cricket wicket. For anyone who has had the questionable fortune to have sat in the Gods at the Royal Opera House or the Gallery at the Theatre Royal Haymarket then these are truly miraculous days.
But to business and the reason why I am here. Well, like many cosmopolitan liberal types – for the last five or six years I have been more than a little obsessed by The Wire. And brilliantly, here in Sheffield, not in London commanding sky high ticket prices on the West End, the Crucible has managed to entice Dominic West and Clarke Peters to perform Othello (no prizes for guessing who Othello is). The icing on the cake? £17.00 for a seat in the middle of Row D. You can tell we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
And I should warn Sheffield that many more productions of this calibre and they will have a stream of recession-hit, disaffected Londoner’s on their hands who have grown weary of an equivalent seat costing upwards of £60, with ludicrously high booking fees to boot.