Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Theatre ticket giveaway launched

Rupert Penry-Jones
Rupert Penry-Jones began his career on the stage

Half-a-million tickets are to be given away free in a bid to encourage more young people to visit the theatre.

A Night Less Ordinary is Arts Council England's scheme to get more under 26-year-olds to watch live stage shows.

More than 200 venues - from Cornish village halls to the National Theatre - are taking part in the giveaway.

Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones, who began his career on the stage, told the BBC that theatres needed new audiences to secure their long-term survival.

Experience

"If young people don't start going now then nobody is going to be going to the theatre in about 10-20 years' time. We'll have no audiences there," said Penry-Jones, who is backing the scheme.

He described the theatre as being a more "intense" experience than watching TV or film, and urged more young people to give it a go.

"There are plays I saw as a young boy that are still with me now," he said.

"I think an experience in the theatre is like no other. When you watch a moving film you do cry, but compared to a moving play - a play that really gets you - it stays with you forever.

National Theatre
The National Theatre is one of the venues taking part

"The same with laughing. I have laughed so much in the theatre I've actually fallen off my seat, whereas in the cinema it's not quite the same.

"And if you look at a theatre audience - if you take your eyes off the stage for a second and look around - the look on their faces is like no other expression in the world."

Free tickets are available to anyone under 26 on the Night Less Ordinary website.

Barbara Matthews, of Arts Council England, said the scheme would last for two years.

"Although going to the theatre is not as expensive as many people think - there are all sorts of theatres of ranges and sizes across the country - the best way of getting people to have a go is to say 'OK, come for free and give it a try'.

"People might have a go at something they have never tried before and that's exactly what we want them to do."

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