Sparknotes for the Theatre

Ever sat on a train at peak time and spoken to another person? Probably not. The saturation of the iPhone and similar products from other brands has meant that wherever we are going we are constantly plugged in. So if you want to reach these people may aiming for the eyes is the wrong idea?


While podcasts are prevalent through many industries such as education and comedy, podcasts in the theatre industry have not been embraced to the same extent as video trailers, hashtags, social media accounts and various other communication forms. But that is slowly changing as Melbourne Theatre Company continues to embrace their on-demand radio station, MTC Talks which features a series of dedicated conversations regarding issues raised by their current productions.

For instance, to complement the current production of The Mountaintop, this month’s featured talk involves an interview with Dr Clare Corbould, a lecturer in African-American studies to examine the life of Martin Luther King, the play’s central character. Previous conversations have featured David Williamson and even Eddie Perfect as dark issues raised in his play The Beast were discussed.

The podcast does act as a point of difference. And it may encourage people interested in MTC performances to become subscribers to the iTunes channel which could lead to further ticket sales when they see a podcast that interests them.

But it plays a much more important function for people who don’t usually go the theatre as they will interact with the service in a different way. A point which can be illustrated with MTC’s previous play, The Beast written by Eddie Perfect.

Eddie Perfect has a large number of fans from Channel 10’s Offspring, his recent tour with Tripod, previous musical dalliances in the form of Shane Warne: The Musical and many other different facets of his life. Hence, the appeal of his play The Beast would transcend the usual MTC audience and possibly encourage new people to give a play a go.

However, if these potential playgoers have not engaged with live theatre very often there is a large amount of risk associated with purchasing tickets. Sure the Eddie Perfect name decreases some of this risk, but there is still a substantial amount of risk when it comes to the fear that they may not understand the show!

In order to overcome this risk consumers will engage in information search to try and find reasons why they should engage with the MTC play. Whether this is reading reviews, looking at the cast (Virginia Gay from Winners & Losers would help decrease that risk), reading about the play or even watching clips of Eddie Perfect on YouTube to remind themselves why he is such a drawcard.

What this podcast does is provide these consumers with another opportunity for information search. An interview with the playwright which outlines the play and explains some of the deeper motifs, symbolism and themes which are employed. Basically a Sparknotes for the theatre.

If the viewers of this podcast feel confident that they understand the background for the performance, some of the themes that are examined and the inspiration for the playwright then this fear of misinterpreting or not understanding the performance disappears. And this means that potential consumers will have a struggle finding a reason not to go and will most likely end up giving it a go because there isn’t very much risk left!