Since my first investigation into ticket prices back in 2016, things have continued to spiral almost out of control.
With non-West End venue The Other Palace (still technically a studio theatre) charging silly money for a belatedly labelled ‘work-in-progress’ production of Heathers The Musical (and then transferring into a West End venue with a characteristically elitist setup), Hamilton charging up to around £250 for their premium tickets (with £75 ‘restricted view’ seats!), and the horrendous flop Knights of the Rose’s ticket prices at the Arts ranging from an only-just-OK £30 to an insane £69.50. Despite the definite quality of the programming at the Old Vic this year, the only thing that’s really sold is the disaster-prone run of Sylvia – and you kind of have to pinpoint their inflated ticket prices for that, even with the £10 PwC preview scheme.
Don’t get me started on the whole ‘x seats at £x’ thing. This is so rarely a good deal that it’s clearly just a marketing tick box. Unless a theatre is offering seats all over the auditorium at that price (rather than just up in the gods), it’s incredibly misleading for them to be shouting about it. The Michael Grandage Company have done a better job than most – I even managed to take advantage of it to get a £10 back stalls seat for The Lieutenant of Inishmore, rather than get cramped up in the balcony.
At least there are some more widely accessible ways of getting good value tickets – TodayTix being the perfect example. It has grown considerably over the past couple of years, beginning as solely a few ticket lotteries to now selling advance tickets (mostly covering a 30-day period, though the odd show has a greater bracket); as well as the increased amount of lotteries, there are also ‘rush’ tickets available for more productions – the more sleep-friendly, weatherproof version of dayseating. The Young Vic and the Bush Theatre offer their own £10 random allocation tickets (I ended up in the front row for An Adventure using this method), which you book in advance and find out your spot on the day. The Globe continues to offer its £5 groundling tickets, too.
However, many of these things simply aren’t appropriate for some people. If standing isn’t possible for you, then being a groundling is out – and it wouldn’t be worth the risk at the Young Vic, as you may have to stand there. And if you’re travelling into London and need some solid plans then leaving it up to the luck of a ticket lottery, rush ticket or dayseating simply won’t cut it.
And what about families? A differentiation between child & adult prices isn’t universal, by any means, and even then it could just end up being a couple of quid between the two prices. When tickets first went on sale for The Wider Earth, I was rather concerned about just how expensive some of the seats were – considering it was clearly set to be a family show, this seemed rather irresponsible. Thankfully since then a ‘KidsGoFree’ promotion code has been introduced, valid if tickets from particular price bands are purchased at the same time.
I was also shocked last year when I booked my ticket to see Nativity! the Musical at the Eventim Apollo (Hammersmith) and found that a family of four could be paying a minimum of around £130 for not-so-great seats, including an infuriating booking fee, in the lowest price band – the same thing has happened this year. And whilst there are child and adult prices, they don’t kick in at the cheapest price band…
I understand completely that theatres need to make a certain amount of money to meet all sorts of costs they encounter, and these costs will go up year on year. The thing is, the country has faced a decade of austerity (the government don’t want to admit it, but to me it appears as if we are actually in another recession); prices for everything keep increasing, but salaries don’t rise to meet them. If there aren’t some more ingenious ticket plans brought in across the board, eventually a significant amount of people will be completely priced out and theatres will go bust anyway. I obviously don’t have all the immediate answers but, well, it’s not my job to.
What do you think? Can you no longer afford to visit the theatre (either regularly or at all)? Or have you got any suggestions that work for both theatres and patrons?