After three major theatre projects of their own (Endgame, ’Tis Pity and Jerusalem), as well as a large stake in last summer’s Othello and potential backing to further plays next spring and autumn, the Commensal Theatre account looks set to become one of Oxford’s most successful independent theatre companies. Though running against a wide variety of longstanding theatre groups and finance bodies, the core team of director Will Felton, production manager Eshan Shah, technical director Sean Ford and producer Andrew Hall believe that their vehicle has cleared more profit – and most importantly, sold more tickets – per pound spent than any of its rivals.
The scalable nature of theatre as a business within different venues, and even the same space, was hammered home in the difference between margins on Endgame, ’Tis Pity and Jerusalem: the former was held in the 50-seat Burton Taylor studio across five nights, working on a £500 budget to return the same again in profit in a sell-out run. ’Tis Pity drove a much larger £2400 into the O’Reilly Theatre’s 160 seat venue for five performances, reducing capacity on the matinee show to accommodate photographers and accept that there was no need to push for a sell-out audience for that event, with a heady £4000 of potential profit margin left intact. Returning to the same space for Jerusalem, one might expect the sums to remain the same. However, in justifying their splash of £3500 on a lavish and immersive set, the team realised that creating such a spectacle would ensure they could push for maximum capacity of the theatre. Once again, an impressive profit was brought home. This bodes well for future aspirations of projects in ever-larger venues, including the possibility of the Oxford Playhouse next autumn, Fringe tours, and London residencies in the future.