Age guidance launched for theatre shows

James Yates as Beast and Hannah Bates as Belle in preparation for Lytham Academy of Theatre Arts' production of Beauty and The Beast at Lowther Pavilion
James Yates as Beast and Hannah Bates as Belle in preparation for Lytham Academy of Theatre Arts' production of Beauty and The Beast at Lowther Pavilion

LOWTHER Pavilion is to introduce a cinema-style certification scheme for all its shows.

The ground-breaking move comes after an amateur performance of Beauty and the Beast – with a teenage cast and based on the Disney classic – was omitted from a list of family-friendly productions by box office staff answering queries over ticket availability.

Officials and parents of the Lytham Academy of Theatre Arts, who are staging the show at the Lytham venue over the next four days, staged a ‘mystery shopping’ exercise following disappointing ticket sales.

They were shocked to find that a number of calls to the Lowther box office to ask what family shows were coming up were answered with a brief list which didn’t include Beauty and the Beast.

On another occasion, the production was included in the reply but the caller was specifically told it was not suitable for children.

LATA officials have met with the acting manager of Lowther Pavilion Tim Lince, who is also acting chairman of the Lowther Trust, and the certification scheme has been agreed to avoid any future confusion.

“It was all a misunderstanding and we hope the new scheme, which was LATA’s suggestion and which is rare in the theatre world, will provide a definitive answer to any similar queries in future as well as being a useful ongoing guide for parents,” said Mr Lince.

“There was no ulterior motive – it was based on a genuine belief Beauty and the Beast was not suitable for a certain age group and box office staff are also being supplied with scripts of shows to try and make doubly-sure such an error isn’t repeated.”

The colour-coded certifications, recommending minimum ages for audience members at all shows, will appear on the Lowther website as well as future brochures.

Julie Filmer, vice-chairman of LATA, said: “We discussed with Tim Lince and a member of the box office staff our concerns regarding poor ticket sales and the fact we felt the box office has not helped in promoting our show.

“The issue is ongoing and we will be meeting up in January to further discuss a way forward. It was agreed that box office staff should receive much more training in selling shows to the public.”

The LATA production of Beauty and the Beast is based on the 1991 Disney movie re-released last year in 3D. It is generally considered to be for all the family but the Australian Parenting Network website is one which carries a warning that some scenes might be unsuitable for youngsters under eight.