Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Thank You For Your Complaint

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for getting in touch to tell me how outraged/disappointed/angered (delete as applicable) you are because we no longer offer [insert complaint here] any more – I understand how frustrated you must be and I’m glad you’ve got in touch with me, a “moron/so-called expert/failure of a manger/incompetent pen-pusher” (delete as applicable) to inform me how you could do things better, how things were better in the past and how I should change everything back to how they were straight away.

Your e-mail, laced with moral indignation, passive aggression and entitlement is exactly the sort of thing a liberal snowflake/unsympathetic money-grabber (delete as applicable, or, keep both) like myself needs to get this issue sorted as soon as possible.

But how about this.

How about we push through this a little. Move past the dance, where we move face to face, reaction into reaction, pleasantries hiding truth. How about I tell you what I’m actually thinking when you write to me and tell me how frustrated you are.

I am frustrated too.

I am frustrated that you feel we’ve let you down.

I’m frustrated that we make compromises and they’ve not benefitted you.

I’m frustrated that the world is not a fair and just place, and that everyone isn’t equal, not by a long-shot.

I’m frustrated that I will spend my time explaining how and why we work in a specific way, trying to concisely articulate the nuance and complication that working in theatre, indeed life entails, that the thing that’s offended you has been thought out and that, while it may be something that’s different for a few people it’s, in fact, been done for a greater good, and that after you read my 1,346 words crafted over 35 minutes, sent to you to help answer your query I will be met with a responding e-mail simply saying “Disappointing”.

I’m frustrated that every year is battle to break even so that we don’t have to cut a budget, or a member of staff, or two from the cast of a show, or a show.

I’m frustrated that I frequently look at sales figures and feel physically sick, not that they’re bad (as you, the sales expert tell me), but because I feel I have to obsess over them or all this might crumble.

I’m frustrated that you can’t see that some people got more than others, and those winners are predominantly older and white, who got houses when they were cheaper, University educations when it was free, the world when it was less carboned, who are obsessed with blaming the young for all the problems in the world and don’t seem to see that maybe it’s the person who mixed the ingredients rather than the people who take it out of the oven are responsible for how the cake tastes.

I’m frustrated because I didn’t mix the ingredients better.

I’m frustrated that there are people who can’t see shows, because they can’t afford it. More than that I’m frustrated that people can’t afford their bills, to heat their houses, to feed their kids, and suddenly theatre feels pointless in comparison.

I’m frustrated that it feels like over every horizon is a cut and someone pays for it. Over every horizon is a cut, there isn’t enough money, not for this, we only have money for bailing out banks, for the economy, for what?

I’m frustrated that noone seems to realise that growth-on-growth-on-growth cannot last forever. Not without crushing people.

I’m frustrated that I’m tired all the time. And that I feel helpless and hopeless increasingly. And that writing this will undoubtly piss someone off.

I’m frustrated that we’re not doing well enough. Not just you and me, or the town, or the theatre, or the arts, or the UK. All of it. The world. We’re not doing well enough. We get one chance at this and this is what we have.

I’m frustrated that you wrote to a stranger, who’s doing their best, who works their arse off, with a tone that you wouldn’t use in real life, you made them feel shit, you made their drive home feel sad and 99% of time your mind is already made.

I’m frustrated that I’ve probably done the same thing sometime before.

So I’m sorry. I honestly am. I’ll do my best for you, I’ll try and make you feel better. But let’s be realistic, we’re all just doing our best trying to navigate an uncharted land without a map or compass, let’s show a little more compassion right?