The challenges - and excitement - of marketing Regeneration

The challenges - and excitement - of marketing Regeneration

Monday, 1 September 2014

Ahead of this week’s premiere of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, marketing folks from several Touring Consortium venue partners, which are preparing to host the production over the coming three months, gathered for a powwow and sneak-peek in Northampton on Friday 29 August 2014.  Theatre Cloud was there too.


What are the challenges of marketing a show like Regeneration?

Well, for starters… Audiences are “warred out” after myriad productions and other commemorative World War One centenary events, most people are not familiar with Pat Barker’s novel, there’s no big “name” in the cast and the subject is just too “serious” for some quarters.

But the list of selling points is much longer than the list of challenges. Amongst them: a major world premiere, a great and compelling story based on actual events, a Booker-nominated novel, Pat Barker, a highly respected creative team including adapter Nicholas Wright and director Simon Godwin, some of the 20th century’s greatest poetry, the track records of the Touring Consortium and co-producers Northampton, Royal & Derngate and, yes, the tie-in with the centenary of the “war to end all wars”.

All of these are discussed during the morning’s marketing brainstorm with the Touring Consortium’s Jane Morgan and Pam Kehoe and representatives from partner venues Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton; Darlington Civic Theatre; Theatre Royal, Nottingham; Oxford Playhouse; and Richmond Theatre.

The marketing officers exchange ideas and share their experiences of what's working, and what isn’t, in their attempts to reach new audiences in their areas. Successes reported include: cross-promotion to classical music mailing lists, targeted direct mail shots, theatre book groups, literary adaptation season packages, the Women’s Institute, Tickets for Troops, digital campaigns at younger people who studied the book as part of the school curriculum, schools newsletters and pop-up banners at castles and other local attractions.

There’s also a lot of enthusiasm from the marketers for Theatre Cloud’s War Poetry for Today competition and plans for poetry readings and workshops around it.

Everyone is “quietly confident” that word of mouth on Regeneration will spread quickly once reviews are out and schools and audiences fully returned from summer holidays. But still, there are an awful lot of World War One plays about…

We break for lunch and receive a visit from director Simon Godwin. World War One, says Simon, is merely a backdrop for the story. Regeneration is not about the war, and certainly not about this war in particular. It is about how war affects, and scars, the individual.

And so much more. Amongst the questions Regeneration asks, Simon tells us, are, from an artistic perspective: What is our voice for? What happens when you lose your voice? How do you find it again? Why make art at all? From a medical perspective: What is madness and how do we treat it? Is it more effective to address the origins or the symptoms of anxiety? From an ethical perspective: What does it mean to be a hero? What is true sacrifice? When is it right to fight and when is it right to stand up against violence?

“Poetry and art exist in the space between truth and meaning. We don’t just want the truth, we don’t just want the abstract. We want the in-between.” - Regeneration director Simon Godwin

This is by no means a “dusty piece of history”, Simon assures us. And, despite the subject, “In Nick’s version, there are jokes in it! He has found the wit and charm of these men” to create “a witty dissection of the role of the artist, both then and now”.

As for the lack of star power in the cast, Simon predicts that several of the leads – like Tim Delap who plays Siegfried Sassoon, Garmon Rhys (fresh out of LAMDA) who plays Wilfred Owen and Jack Monaghan who plays the fictional Billy Prior – are stars of the future, definitely “ones to watch”.

Then there’s the poetry. Why is it important? “Poetry and art exist in the space between truth and meaning,” according to Simon. “We don’t just want the truth, we don’t just want the abstract. We want the in-between.” Intriguingly, Simon likens poetry in the early 20th century to social media today – “it was a way of making urgent commentary”.

As we head off for our sneak-peek of the final dress rehearsal of Regeneration, we rise to the "urgent commentary" challenge and start tweeting. Come the interval, we are whipping up a mini Twitter storm with our excitement for the production – including a very big jump and gasp moment just before the safety curtain comes down on Act One.

After the show, the marketers gather again and the room is buzzing. Now that we’ve all seen Regeneration, it really is obvious: this is absolutely not just another World War One play! As Simon told us, it is about so much more and it is absolutely a play for today. We rush to catch trains, newly invigorated to spread the word.

 


Terri Paddock (www.terripaddock.com) is Acting Editor of TheatreCloud. You can follow her on Twitter @TerriPaddock.

Regeneration opens at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 29 August to 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.

Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 (previews from 29 August) at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it continues until 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.