Gareth looked a little ashamed. Tracey had assured him she had a plan, and he’d been a little preoccupied to go through it with her. She had seemed so confident at the time. Now he was sat in Freddie’s office, while a projection of what his colleague had described as a “cracking bit of hot totty” stared back at him from the wall.
Maybe turning the projector off might make things better. Reaching over to the box, he discovered that it was red hot. “Owww” he cried as his fingers found the heat outlet. Snapping his hand back, he knocked the projector and spun it around. Suddenly, the hunk’s chest was beamed onto Freddie.
“What are you doing?” the manager cried, “Point that thing somewhere else!” He flailed vainly as he tried to wipe the image from his front.
Doris looked at him and chuckled. “You’re looking a bit hunky Freddie. Perhaps we should get you up on stage.
“Don’t you start Doris” replied Freddie, still trying to dodge the projection.
Tracey leaned in and pressed the off button. Mr November disappeared and Freddie’s grubby shirt returned. “Thank you”, he said and slumped back in his seat.
“You know”, Doris said calmly, “Young Tracey has a point.” Tracey looked at her in surprise. “I mean it’s not what we normally do, but then that’s the idea isn’t it?”
Freddie regained his rabbit in the headlights look. “Are you mad? Of course it’s not what we do.”
“And that’s the problem isn’t it. We’ve done what we normally do, and look where it’s got us.”
“Yes. It’s got this place to the brink of bankruptcy. We’ve an audience who drift in if the weather is wet or there’s nothing on the telly. Yes, we do things to help people out, but what do we get from them? Complaints about the state of the seats or that they can buy cola from Tesco for a fraction of the price they get it from us.”
“But they are our customers.”
“Yes they are and a right pain in the arse a lot of them are too.”
Freddie was shocked. Doris liked a gentle moan but now she was sounding serious. “We can’t call them a pain in the arse. OK, they might be a bit old and perhaps stuck in their ways…”
Doris launched in, “Old. Too right. And don’t we know it. You know our bargain day when we let everyone into the cinema for the concession price? I had a lecture the other day from some miserable git angry that we didn’t let them in even cheaper! Apparently, if you’ve lived a long life, you deserve everything for free and we should be grateful to give it to you.”
“Well, we can’t keep all the people happy all the time.”
“Oh stop talking in proverbs. I know we can’t, but more and more of them just seem to come in to complain about everything. You don’t see it hiding up here in your office.”
Freddie spluttered, “I’m not…”
“Yes you are.” Doris was hitting her stride. Gareth and Tracey looked at each other. “Look Freddie, I know you have a lot to do, but all we get some nights are moans. It’s not our fault, we do our best but I don’t think it would matter what we do. They could have bloody gold-plated seats with velvet cushions and they would complain they didn’t like the colour.”
“But, the customer is always right.” Freddie stuttered, realising he was back to the proverbs.
“No, they aren’t. Sometimes they are a right pain and me and my team would love to chuck them out of the door.”
Gareth laughed nervously, “That wouldn’t do the finances much good.”
Doris shot him an angry look. “A dozen cheap seats in the middle of the day? Plus two or three cups of tea? That’s not going to help us much is it?”
Freddie was annoyed, “So what should we do? Get the oily gigolos in?”
“Yes” Doris exclaimed. “Look Freddie, we need a new audience. Younger people who enjoy a night out. We need a crowd who pay proper money for tickets and drink our bar dry. I might not appreciate young Tracey’s dress sense, but she’s come up with a new idea.”
Tracey looked down at her clothes. She’s picked her soberest suit, a deep maroon number from Office.
Doris continued, “Look, this isn’t what we’ve done before, but I don’t see we have any choice. This stuff brings the crowds in. My granddaughter was telling me about one she and her mates went to see. It was £40 a ticket! That’s half a dozen of them at £40 a ticket – think what money we could make if we filled the place. Half a dozen young women, a hundred years younger than most of the people we get in the door. And they had a good time. A bloody good time.”
“But what about the councillors?” Freddie protested.
“What about them? They want to close us down. Most of them only come in to be seen at something cultural. They don’t buy tickets, we have to give them free drinks, and then they doze off in the second half. That’s if they can be bothered to stay past the interval. Sod’em. If we are going to go down, let’s go down fighting.
Tracey, Gareth and Freddie all looked Doris. She stared back at them breathing deeply, as though she’d been in a fight. Which in a way she had been.
Gareth turned to Freddie, “I think Doris might have a point old man. You did ask us to come up with ideas to shake the place up a bit. I’m not saying I’m a fan of this thing Tracey has come up with. Not my cup of tea at all really, but you have to admit it is different.”
“And these things are popular”, added Tracey, “As I said, I know loads of people, people like Doris’s granddaughter, who love a night out like this.” Doris winked at Tracey. “Come on, let’s give it a try. Put up a bit of a fight.”
Freddie stared at the pile of paper on his desk for a few moments. He didn’t know what to think. Finally, he sat up and looked at Tracey. “OK then Tracey. Do you really think you can pull this off?”
Tracey smiled, “It’s not a problem Freddie. I can make this work.”
“Well then, I better work out how I am going to explain this to Councillor Osbourne.”