PLAYNOTE Differences of theatre between Tokyo and London


Differences of theatre between Tokyo and London

[演劇メモ] 2004/05/26 13:37



Differences of theatre between Tokyo and London
~ in terms of management ~
TANI Kenichi

    Despite the geographical distance of over 10,000 km, theatres in Tokyo and London have a large number of features in common. They have a similar look and architecture, for example, proscenium arch, stage curtain, numbered seats, and electric lighting system. Although Japan had a very unique style of theatre until the 1860s, Japanese reformers chose to copy the Western theatre totally for modernization. However, there are some particular differences between theatres in Tokyo and London. Now I would like to compare them in terms of how they run their performances.

    A difference I should firstly treat is whether it has a long-run system or not. It is really incredible for Japanese people that one performance runs for years, occasionally over 10 years! In London, a performance which runs for a limited period shows “limited season” in its advertisement. In Tokyo, there is no advertisement like this because every play*1 is “limited season”. So however great a success they have, they must finish the performance because the theatre is booked by another company, usually half or one year before.

    The next large difference is whether performances are on Sundays or not. As far as I know, the number of the companies which give a performance on Sundays is very few in London. Conversely there is no company which takes a holiday on Sundays in Japan, because Sunday is the busiest day for them. This is deeply related with the society and culture. In the UK, there had been a law named “Shops Act 1950”. All the shops were prohibited from working on Sundays by this law until 1994, the year of the abolition of this law, though many shops had broken it before the abolition. The number of Sunday-matinees has increased in recent years, but evening performances are really rare even now in London, whereas Japanese theatre companies usually perform twice on Sundays.

    The other big difference is the way of selling tickets. In London, it is customary that a box office is located in the theatre to sell tickets in person and by phone. However, there is no box office in Japanese theatres. Of course they have a phone number for booking and getting information, but almost all of the theatres do not have an office or window for selling tickets. If you want to book a ticket in Japan, the best and the most common way is to use one of the booking agencies. They sell tickets for theatres, cinemas, sports, concerts, and any kinds of entertainment. They are committed to managing tickets for theatre companies. Customers can use the telephone, the internet and the machine placed in convenience stores. You can also book a ticket by calling the theatre company directly, but it is inconvenient and sometimes they transfer all ticket selling to booking agency.

    And it should be mentioned that London has a remarkable system for selling tickets. There is a small booth in Leicester Square, named ‘tkts’. The tkts is the official half price and discount theatre ticket booth. Although there is a number of discount ticket shops around Leicester Square, the official one is tkts only. The tkts sells the tickets which are not sold yet for performance on that day for half price*2. The Japanese theatre industry does not have such a beneficial service at all. It is not only beneficial to the audience, but also to the theatre companies because this system might reduce the number of unsold tickets. The less the audience, the less vital theatre is. And also, of course, selling unsold tickets even for half price is better than not selling at all. The existence of tkts represents how the British theatre is thriving. The fact of that there is a lot of demand for day tickets says that the British go to the theatre if they suddenly get free. In other words, theatre is close to them. There is no one in Japan who comes up with going to the theatre when he/she gets free.

    As mentioned above, the theatre management is deeply related to its society. Therefore it is impossible to conclude which is the better. However, I dare say that the Japanese theatre industry is relatively closed and minor. Probably the long-run system does not fit the Japanese theatre industry, however there are a lot of aspects to learn from the British theatre for Japanese. And vice versa. Although only differences are emphasized in this essay, there are also a large number of similarities between these two cities, Tokyo and London. We must learn something from each other for the future of the theatre.


*1 “The four seasons theatre” is one and only exception in Japan. They are doing long-run performances.
*2 Correctly, you must pay a service charge of £2.50 per ticket. So the exact price of ticket is half price plus £2.50.


投稿者:しのぶ (2004年05月26日 18:11)

The four seasons theatreって言うんだー。

投稿者:Kenichi Tani (2004年05月26日 19:40)

おっ、さすが英文科。よくこんなダラダラ長いのをよくぞすぐさま読んでくれた。The four seasons theatre ってのは勝手に訳語を当てたんだけど、The four seasons hotel とかあるからあってるんじゃないかと思う(なげやり)。日本通のナンシーも別段首を傾げてなかったし。

投稿者:G (2004年05月26日 22:55)

Shiki Theatre Companyと書いてある。

投稿者:Kenichi Tani (2004年05月27日 00:03)



投稿者:soni (2004年05月27日 04:35)



投稿者:Kenichi Tani (2004年05月28日 17:29)