Marketing is a strange beast. You’d think selling out an Oxford show would be a doddle – after all, isn’t Oxford renowned for forming an ever expanding web of influential people who can get anything done? Just stick a few posters up in your JCR, maybe throw out an email or two so everyone knows their loyalty to their college and their friends and, more importantly, their pretensions to culture are being put to the test, and bang, sell out. Couldn’t fail. Except for the fact that trekking out to the Burton Taylor on a cold, November evening when one’s friends are lashing it up in any of Oxford’s premier establishments is the last thing most people fancy doing, and when you throw in that they have to pay money to watch amateurs prance about… well, then the going gets tough.
To sell a show you need one of two things – an overpowering campaign that forces the knowledge of the show into the mind of every single student in Oxford, or a review in an eminent newspaper (wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean.) The dangers of the latter are well known – a stinker of a review isn’t going to help you. But the former can also be dangerous. Take a show that was on last term – for anonymity’s sake let’s call it Rideshead Brevisited. A classic novel, with an Oxford link, transformed into a play for an Oxford audience. What could be simpler to sell?
The marketing campaign, however, made it out to be the Second Coming. There were trailers, podcasts, interviews and articles in both of Oxford’s student newspapers, and the poster was everywhere, and I mean everywhere. It’s an annoying convention now for every cast and crew member to set it as their profile pic, but that particular poster is still in MY profile picture, and I had nothing whatsoever to do with the production. That level of saturation is frankly terrifying, and perhaps that was why when the dates came round that had been hammered into every skull in a ten mile radius of Oxford, I didn’t bother to buy a ticket.