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Subsidised Theatre Tickets Squeeze All?

July 25, 2018

The National Theatre’s top prices pretty much match those in the West End, as do those of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Opera ticket prices often exceed both.

Let’s be fair – the lowest prices can be lower than commercial West End ones, though not always… the National can be £18, more than the £15 or £10 of some commercial venue balcony seats, though the seat locations are way better.

We also have to be fair that both National and RSC productions always look “the business” with wonderful sets, huge casts, live orchestras and star names that would put another tenner on the ticket down Shaftesbury Avenue, but are foregone for the CV entry and likely chance of working with a great director and scooping an award.

Still, the original idea of “theatre for everybody” starts to look a little thin, doesn’t it?

Real costs have increased – wages and raw materials in particular. Audience expectations are higher, so some impressive productions even 30 years ago may look somewhat tatty now as ever more talented creatives are indulged everywhere.

My main guess as to why, though, is actually down to the same issues we now see within the wider British economy. Simply: those who were young and supported the NT as it grew on its present site in the 1970s are now those entitled to concession priced seats.

At the other end, theatre thinking is to reach out to the young – those who don’t have much cash, and give them cheap seats too.

Result: of course, those who earn a “reasonable income” (at best) are squeezed for everything they can afford. Now the sheer cost of living is rising, that is starting to hurt, and nobody is doing anything except trying to keep letting them fill the pot to distribute to those with even less.

Is there a solution? Public buildings paid for with tax money have to be accessible to tax payers. Those who once paid tax will claim they are entitled to reap what they sowed, while without bringing in new theatregoers, we lose the chance of theatre for the future at all.

The idea of “buying a ticket for a young person” though an extra box office levy works – if anyone is willing to do so, but it’s donation. Sponsorship and all the other ways subsidised theatres attempt to raise funds by also work to an extent, but in the end it is the middle-aged-middle-income theatregoer taking up the slack.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to show that they are valued too, and realise that “am I made of money” isn’t just applicable to the ends of the theatregoing range…

  1. July 26, 2018 10:10 am

    I totally know the feeling ….

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      July 26, 2018 10:16 am

      Pleased it isn’t just me!

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