We're about to embark on one dull season. The period in which we all suffer from a perpetual summer come-down, Autumn does little for the morale. It's dreary, it's starting to get dark and post our summer hols, no one has any money. The Autumn blues are a force to be dealt with; especially in this economic climate but beating them is apparently what we're great at.
According to a recent government survey, Britons are smiling. The Office for National Statistics revealed that 73% of the country rated their happiness between a grading of 7 and 10 on the 'happiness scale' so we must be doing something to counter the lingering grey clouds. If you're a part of the 27% that is yet to see the silver lining through the summer's torrential downpours worry not, the answer may lie in entertainment. 'In the past, in times of recession, entertainment always offered an escape. You couldn't afford to go on holiday or buy a new car, but you could set aside a bit of money to have a treat' says Sonia Friedman, a West End theatre producer. Not much has changed with time then because according to Friedman, the theatre industry is thriving. If escape via entertainment is the cure to our blues, a wealth of remedies is on offer in London. Theatre, art galleries, museums, independent cinema, it's all a metro ride away and what's more, it's cheap.
Rather sadistically, escaping our own problems is easier when presented with someone else's plight. Theatre and cinema provide a humane solution to this conundrum. Star cross'd lovers Juliet and her Romeo appear to suffer more in 24 hours than most of us will in an entire year and to top it all off, they die at the end. Twists and turns in plots distract from the strains of everyday life and if the play's any good, we'll leave the theatre thinking about that rather than the next deadline or what to make for dinner out of an onion, cheese and brown rice. If, unlike most of the sick people out there you fail to find happiness in someone else's tragic tale, there's always the option to watch a comedy. Theatre has gradually become a scene for the young. A refreshing alternative to the cinema far removed from its fusty pigeon holing as the pass-time of the fur wearing, cigar-smoking bourgeoisie.
The Odeon may offer Orange Wednesdays but the West End is doing its best to provide cheaper tickets to shows on a daily basis. 'It's very important that young people and those who can't afford to pay top prices can get in to see my shows, and I always ensure than an amount of cheaper tickets are available every day' Friedman says. Queue for a standby ticket outside the Royal Court Theatre on the day of the performance you want to see and bag a ticket for a tenner. Alison Duguid at the Society of London Theatre advises that you take a cushion though. Discounts of as much as £70 are well worth a two-hour wait outside the box office in the cold but a bit of comfort helps in these situations. Hot choc in a flask is also a nice touch…and maybe some biscuits.
For those who prefer to book in advance, many subsidised theatres like The National offer cheap ticket schemes. Apply for an Entry Pass card for 16-25 year olds with The National and reap the benefits. This card gets you into any play for just a fiver if you book in time. Or book on the Travelex scheme and get tickets for just £12. 'Finding a good deal involves digging around, but it's no more complicated than booking a flight. If you phone British Airways direct, they're going to charge the top price. But if you hunt around a bit, you'll find an offer. There's always a deal' says Friedman. Kicking the blues then, is just a matter of scouting out the best bargain.
London Museums and Galleries are Free
If times have got really hard and the hole in the wallet appears to be un-mendable, museums and galleries cost nothing at all. Since the introduction of universal free admission in December 2001, visits to the cultural hot spots that used to charge for entrance have tripled. If mummies and Roman artillery gauge no interest from you what so ever, how do experiments with film, portraits of Hollywood celebs and insights into Viv Westwood's designs float your boat? Martin Roth, Director at the Victoria & Albert museum also indicates that aside from giving us something to do, museums can broaden our knowledge and even invoke the creative spirit in all of us. 'It is important because the V&A was set up to inspire creativity, knowledge and innovation, to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers' says Roth. So a wet Sunday afternoon spent dallying about a museum could result in an evening of poetry writing, a week of short story-telling, a month of dress making; a project may be just the thing to reignite your sense of get up and go. We can't all be artistes but with a bit of motivation, we might at least give it a try.
So on darker days, it may be worth donning layer upon layer of knitwear and escaping the house. A drop of culture and a dash of entertainment are just what the doctor orders to dispel sun-deprived woes. The happiness found in escape may be a prerequisite of living in this country; a just cause for cheap access to entertainment.