Features Published 25 November 2021

Free Pizza Makes Everything Feel Possible

NDT artistic director David Byrne explains why he’s accompanying the theatre’s new season with tasty freebies.

David Byrne

The newly refurbished NDT. Photograph: Rebecca Need-Menear

Next season, New Diorama Theatre will feed everyone who sees a show with us.

Thanks to the generosity of our local Camden Domino’s, we’ll be serving tens of thousands of pizza slices post-show. All either vegetarian or vegan, with gluten free options available. At time of writing, I’m still not sure exactly how much of that amazing garlic herb dip they do will be on offer, but negotiations continue.

As Artistic Director, there are several reasons this feels essential right now.

First, audiences will convert the pizza into chemical energy, which they’ll use to continue living. People not perishing at the theatre is a cornerstone of Arts Council England’s “Let’s Create” strategy; and keeping audiences alive has always been a big priority at NDT, one we traditionally succeed at 80% of the time.

But mostly it’s about sharing time with each other.

If we have a house style at NDT it’s intellectually rigorous work with a collaborative, visually ambitious aesthetic. Our shows are programmed for discussion and debate. The performance should only be the start. The true satisfying experience should be in the bar afterwards – meeting strangers, jousting your corner out with friends so ferociously you have to send bridge-building texts the next day. And all of this is better with pizza.

Audiences at NDT. Photograph: Rebecca Need-Menear

Audiences at NDT. Photograph: Rebecca Need-Menear

There’s also audiences at NDT for whom this will make a huge difference. For example, having been very poor at times in my own life, I know complicated access systems and schemes can be terrifying; for the same reason I could never buy any food that was weighed, terrified it would come out slightly more than the weight of coins carefully counted in my pocket. This new offer simply means that if you’re unemployed – which, incidentally, includes countless artists post-lockdown – you can get a preview ticket for £3 at NDT, with several slices of pizza for free.

And at a time when going to the theatre (or even leaving the house) feels like a bigger commitment than before, we’ve done this without raising ticket prices, which are still all under £20. This is a particularly good bargain when you consider buying a single slice of pizza from a vendor in Leicester Square currently costs approximately fifty pounds, or less if you opt to pay in instalments over time.

There is some deeper thinking here though. For NDT, it’s never totally about the ideas themselves.

This year we’ve launched a lot of big, new ideas. But truly, it’s not about huge free rehearsal complexes, big shows in small spaces or, now, pizza for everyone. It’s about showing that anything can be possible. That if a tiny studio theatre, with only 80 seats and no regular ACE support, can take big swings – then anyone can.

We’re living through a rare time – a moment between what came before and a new status quo, yet to be cemented. The dust, not yet settled, still dances in the air.

After what we’ve lived through, we’re all questioning whether theatre can change anything at all, even itself, let alone change the world. But I don’t think any of us would forgive ourselves if we didn’t try. If we didn’t use this small patch that we all occupy to give it everything we’ve got.

It won’t be easy, but our futures have yet to be decided. If we can do it, you can do it. If we can make our big ideas a reality, you can make your come true. Because, while the dust dances in the air, it’s all still to play for.

But, in the meantime, there will be free pizza. And a time where, in the foyer as much as on the stage, anything might feel possible.

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David Byrne

David Byrne is Artistic and Executive Director of New Diorama Theatre, London.

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