Earlier this week, Jamie Lloyd delivered an impassioned attack on West End box office prices. Lloyd, whose production of Doctor Faustus is playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre, branded high prices ‘a massive problem’ and laid part of the blame on star casting. ‘There are a lot of companies and producers out there who will… effectively exploit the profile of actors in a show by charging tickets that are soaring way past the £100 mark, which I think is outrageous’ (Source: The Stage).
And he’s quite right. Last year, the average price of a theatre ticket in the West End was £85.04. This average was no doubt brought up by the frankly ridiculous price of tickets to Elf, £240.00. I personally love Elf. My love for it, however, is not worth £240.00.
The question is, what can be done? Lloyd himself admitted that tickets can be pretty pricey even at his own shows which are ‘still too expensive’. He is actively trying to make changes though, offering £15 tickets to Monday performances. Many theatres have a cheaper ticket policy, operating Day Seats at a discounted price. Other schemes which spring to mind include the Donmar’s £10 Front Row scheme with Barclaycard and a number of Under 25 schemes, such as the RSC Key and the National’s Entry Pass just to name a few.
Fortunately for me, I fall within this bracket (for now), but am worried at the ever increasing price tags for tickets. When you look at the price and what you can but for it, it’s genuinely laughable: A ‘cheap’ ticket to Book of Mormon at £37.50, or a gym membership for a month. 1 ticket to Elf at £240, or an actual wind machine to stage my own production of Elf, complete with snow storm and everything. Or 48 tickets to a Globe show!
At this moment in time, many organisations are trying to make theatre accessible for everyone. Shakespeare’s Globe is encouraging the local community and young people to get involved with theatre through Southwark Youth Theatre and Concert for Winter and likewise the Old Vic New Voices scheme engages the local community through performance and hopes to build London’s largest inclusive community theatre. You must question then why during a period where we’re encouraging inclusiveness in theatre on stage, why the same can’t be said for off stage too. Lloyd sums it up quite nicely: ‘Like our government, we are creating a divide in the audience between the rich and the poor…You cannot let your ticket prices soar to an astronomical place just because people will pay for them. People will pay for them, but that does not mean it is right‘ (Source: The Stage).