I’m sure many of us are counting down the days to when theatres can reopen on 17th May with social distancing and from 21st June at full capacity, all being well.
The past year has been incredibly hard for not only everyone involved in the arts, but also those who love to experience live theatre.
Hundreds of shows have been cancelled, postponed, rescheduled over the last year leaving many tickets holders understandably disappointed, but sadly there was no other option.
Since March 2020 we have been able to get our theatre fix though the abundance of great online shows that have been available to us. It is a brilliant way to soak up a bit of culture, but it is just not the same as experiencing the magic, the feelings, emotions and sounds you get when at a live venue in person.
With theatres and box offices in the West End slowly coming alive again, many theatre goers are itching to get back to their seats and are already snapping up tickets.
Some tickets prices have shot up substantially and include eye watering booking fees - some are upwards of £20!
I can understand that after a year of closure theatres will want to increase their ticket prices. The cost of running a live stage show with big casts and creatives is extremely expensive. Plus now venues need to factor in the costly health and safety solutions and potentially run at a limited capacity for a while. They need to try and recoup lost finances somehow. However, higher prices and quite outrageous charges may put many people off returning to theatre.
Theatre needs to be accessible to all. It is an exciting and social experience where fun, inspiring and thought-provoking stories are told that people of all ages no matter their background, culture etc can identify and engage with. Whether it is performed through musicals, plays or dance, giving everyone the opportunity to experience the power of live theatre is so important. Theatre IS for everyone.
Ticket prices in the West End have been going up slowly for some time now. Did you know that prior to lockdown Hamilton was the most expensive musical in London with a single ticket costing around £250. The Phantom of the Opera was of similar pricing, followed by Wicked at £202.75 per person.
The most expensive play was Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. This is a play of two parts with the average ticket price of £175 per person to see just one part.
These shows were some of the most popular productions going before venues closed. It was clear that many theatre goers were happy to pay these high prices. Many though are not and many just can’t afford it.
Theatres are committed to making all their tickets prices affordable to everyone. That is why many venues have introduced different schemes to attract new and younger audiences, plus those who live outside of London.
These schemes include discounted prices, lottery tickets, day tickets, kids’ week and more. For example, The Palace Theatre where Harry Potter and The Cursed Child was showing, release 40 tickets at £40 per person every week via an app, which allows the holder to see both parts of the play.
Cyrano de Bergerac, starring James McAvoy, opened in November 2019 at the Playhouse Theatre and some seats were sold for around £150. However, 15,000 tickets were available at £15 for keyworkers, under 30’s, those on job seekers allowance and other benefits. Plus 15,000 tickets were available for free for first time theatre goers.
The National Theatre also offer hundreds of seats for just £15 for certain performances.
These schemes where the premium seats are subsidising the cheaper ones allowing more tickets to be accessibly priced is fantastic.
As well as our regular theatre goers, we also have a new audience that have streamed productions online for over a year. We should be welcoming them into theatre with open arms and not putting them off with sky high prices. Schemes and opportunities like these will certainly help.
Theatres recognise that there is a huge appetite for live theatre and that some people are happy to pay extra, particularly right now just to be able to experience live performances again. Hopefully they won’t take advantage of this and keep increasing their ticket prices and booking fees.
Seeing a West End show is notoriously expensive, particularly for those who live outside of London and must travel/stay over. All these extra costs certainly add up. Many people visit the theatre perhaps once or twice a year as a treat for the family or at Christmas to see a Panto.
That is why it is so important to remember the theatres that we have on our doorstep such as Milton Keynes Theatre, Stantonbury Theatre, The Stables and The Royal and Derngate.
It is also vital to support local theatre companies and fringe venues. Theatre can also take place in non theatre spaces. We still get to experience wonderful live shows straight from the West End, thanks to the touring theatre companies, at a fraction of the London ticket prices. We can also see more experimental work, but which also has high production values. By that I mean excellent writing, acting and design. A story simply told can be just as moving (if not more so) than any great spectacular.
I have missed theatre hugely and I will certainly be returning as soon as I can. I think for now I will remain local and support the theatres in and around Milton Keynes when they reopen. By doing that I also support the local economy which will also need a boost. I cannot wait to be in the auditorium once again, soaking up the atmosphere, ready for some pure escapism and a diverse range of stories.