Posted on 14 March 2012

Hollywood actor and Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey has ranted about the rapidly rising cost to go to the West End theatres in London, warning that in the long term it will alienate the next generation of theatregoers.

In an article in The Telegraph he is quoted as saying:"When I look around at Broadway and the West End, theatre is becoming an exclusive club…if we don't reach out to make theatre affordable to the young generation we will lose them all."   He continues "I am embarrassed that there is such short-sightedness on the heads of producers and theatre directors."  He points out that a couple of tickets to a West End show generally comes in at well over £100 not including any other travel, childminding and restaurant costs the trip may incur.  "Kids are not going to spend that kind of money.  They're going to buy ipads, save the money, or do something else".
The standard face value of top price tickets for a West End show generally average at around £50 for a play and £60 for a musical.  The need to secure sales means that most theatres allocate a bulk of their seats to ticket agencies, who in turn will add on booking fees in order to make money themselves.  Many shows that aren't filling their houses will offer deep discounts on tickets, which can be snapped sometimes at the theatre directly on the day or in advance with ticket agencies.  However the shows that are selling well simply don't need to do special offers, so when a show becomes a must-see theatregoers may find themselves forking out an arm and a leg to get top seats.  Most shows don't discount on weekends however, which is usually the easiest time for people to go.

Added to this a growing number of theatres have started to introduce the Broadway phenomenon of 'premium seats'.  A selection of what is considered the very best of the regular top price seats can see a price hike of another twenty to twenty five pounds just so that those with cash to flash can be assured of the ultimate view.  This elitism has a downside as many simply can't afford these prices, and this move by theatre owners can make them seem mercenary and leave a sour taste in people's mouths.  There are theatres who are trying to counteract this move, with Spacey announcing a yearlong scheme at the Old Vic reserving 100 tickets per performance for the under 25 who can purchase them for just £12.  The move has been enabled by a sponsorship by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Increased ticket prices are leading more and more customers to seek out bargains online, which are there to be found if the legwork is put in.  This doesn't help the high profile shows that are all but guaranteed to be sellouts such as the upcoming Shakespeare plays Twelfth Night and Richard III at the Apollo Theatre starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry.  To see a show of that calibre these days puts people in the unenviable position of biting the bullet and dreading the credit card statement later, or missing out.

Book Twelth Night tickets online now.

[posted by James, 14/03/2012]