QUEANBEYAN performing arts centre, The Q, is going from strength to strength with tickets sales increasing by the thousands. A total of 26,625 tickets were sold from July 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012 compared to 20,038 tickets sold during the same period the previous years. Program manager Stephen Pike said tickets sales had "increased dramatically". "That's what we want to happen with the venue coming up to its fifth birthday," he said. "One would still hope there's room for improvement on different levels."
He said these numbers were positive not just for the centre but the Queanbeyan community. The venue recently conducted a survey which revealed 60 per cent of attendees were from across the border and 25 per cent of attendees enjoyed dinner in Queanbeyan prior to seeing a show.
Mr Pike said part of the success had been a better understanding of The Q's demographic. "I guess a lot of it is based on the programming, the types of productions we have in the venue. It takes time to work out our niche." Mr Pike said local venues like the Canberra Theatre focused on big productions from Bell Shakespeare, the Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra. While, another Canberra institution, the Street Theatre commissioned more contemporary works, new writing and local professional performances.
"We had to work out our niche in the market, people come to The Q and want to come along and enjoy themselves," he said. "People want a great night of entertainment that doesn't require too much concentration.'' Mr Pike said comedies were always popular and the main demographic is the over 40s crowd which is the same for most theatres.
He said The Q try to cater for all tastes so there is a combination of non-confronting shows but also productions with strong messages. There is a mixture of genres including drama, comedy, musical theatre, murder mystery, music and indigenous stories. Queanbeyan City Council also provide funding for two in-house productions each season usually a musical and a play.
A stand out of the season was the local production of Agatha Christie's Mousetrap. It holds the record for the highest box office attendance with 4,439 people watching the thriller. "Certainly it's our most successful play, it was produced with a local director, local cast and council provided all the infrastructure," Mr Pike said. "We choose the play, building the set, we do everything from the beginning of rehearsal to the performance."
Mr Pike had an inkling Mousetrap would be a success as it is a well-known play and the longest running show in the world. He only had a small window of opportunity to buy the amateur performance rights before they were taken off the market again. "I knew it would sell well purely based on the name and then with the performance it spread by word of mouth," he said.
Another unexpected success of the season was strong attendance to The Gruffalo's Child featuring the lovable character from the famous children's book. "We had to add an extra performance to satisfy demand, it was a bit of a surprise," Mr Pike said. "In the past we've struggled to sell children's shows so it was out of the blue but again the name Gruffalo is well-known." In September, The Q will follow up with another children's show called I, Bunyip.
Mr Pike said choosing productions was a bit of a guessing game and not one he could always get right. The program manager works about 18-24 months in advance to choose the season's shows. "You think about what's topical in the community," he said. "We had a show called Embers which was about the Victorian bush fires with interviews from the victims.
"A lot of people had been through the Canberra bush fires a couple of years ago. I spoke to people about the play and they could see it might be cathartic but it didn't happen. People didn't want to visit the subject in that context."