There’s a small doorway to one side of London’s Playhouse Theatre. Next to it, names are being checked and lowkey black wristbands are issued to a handful of people. The guests are taken through a labyrinth of corridors until they reach another doorway. It is the portal to the Kit Kat club; a 1930s-accented playground within the already intensely clubby Cabaret experience in London, in partnership with Moet & Chandon.
While ordinary playgoers are heading to their seats, these guests – a maximum of 26 each performance – are being plied with canapes and champagne before joining the rest of the theatre-goers (returning for the Kit Kat Club in the interval for more treats and – of course – champagne). Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, the production at the Playhouse Theatre, is one of London’s hottest tickets and this collaboration is both adding another layer to an already immersive experience and a new direction for theatre sponsorship.
Theatre-goers benefit (even if you don’t opt for the Kit Kat club option, there are ticket options that include a food and a bottle of Moet & Chandon), an experience that’s far from the usual less-than-curated wine, packaged snacks available at most theatres, there are benefits for the sponsor too. Cabaret scooped seven Laurence Olvier awards in 2022, including Best Director for director Rebecca Frecknall, Best Actor and Actress, plus Best Musical Revival.
As Simon Ward–Nicholson, Group Director of Food & Beverage at A.T.G. says: When our audience enters the Kit Kat Club to see Cabaret, everything they see, touch, eat and drink has been specifically curated, and is a representation of 1930s Berlin – authenticity is the key. We are making great progress throughout all 58 venues across the U.K., U.S. and Germany, with Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club inspiring the change.”
Punchdrunk, Britain’s leading proponent of immersive theatre, responsible for a collection of award-winning productions including Masque of the Red Death in 2017 and Sleep No More, which was performed in both London and New York and 2013’s The Drowned Man, always set in non-traditional spaces, where each theatre goer has a different experience.
Punchdrunk’s The Burnt City, its first production in eight years, is housed in two Grade II Listed Buildings in the heart of Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal in London. Based around the fall of Troy, it has the luxury car company Porsche as lead sponsor. In keeping with Punchdrunk’s pioneering ways, the manufacturer has been incorporated into the production in ways that aim to be both subtle and inventive.
“Porsche has been an extraordinary partner,” says Felix Barrett, Artistic Director and founder of Punchdrunk. “With Porsche, we have worked on subliminal, dream-like references, that are ‘Easter eggs’ for those already in-the-know about the brand,”
“Pioneering spirit, creativity, innovative design, ambition and playfulness are values shared by Porsche and Punchdrunk,” says Sarah Simpson, C.E.O of Porsche Cars G.B. “Our founder, Ferry Porsche, had the courage to bring a dream to reality, and as proud headline partner of ‘The Burnt City’, we have enjoyed helping bring the pure imaginative power of the Punchdrunk team’s incredible immersive experience to life.”
Recently, The Punchdrunk X Porsche Experience has been launched. Guests – one pair of tickets a month, won through an online lottery, are driven to The Burnt City in the all-electric Porsche Taycan sports car. Entering the show via a private entrance through a mechanic’s garage, with a reserved VIP table where they can watch cabaret courtesy in The Burnt City’s very own bar, Peep. When guests are ready to leave, their personal chauffeur will deliver them back to their home.
‘I hate to use the word ‘synergy’ but that’s what sponsorship deals like this offer. Since theatre makers are compelled to find money wherever they can, it makes sense to work with brands that chime thematically with the show in question,’ says Nick Curtis, chief theatre critic of the Evening Standard. ‘Especially if we’re talking about productions like Cabaret and The Burnt City, which had a lot of upfront costs – rebuilding or reconfiguring their venues – and large casts. Of course there’s a certain irony involved if you’re paying a premium to sip Moet while watching a musical about a hedonistic society heedless of impending doom: but that’s sort of the point.’