2016 Edit: I wrote this back in 2012. 10th February to be exact. I wonder if I still feel the same way?
I don’t want this to be a rant about money but it is! I understand that everyone is struggling to the point where well meaning individuals are having their knighthood stripped. Okay, maybe everybody’s not in that particular boat, but nonetheless the ship is sinking. Theatre is just one of those things that are struggling. The changes are subtle but I have noticed them; non-discounted shows for example. As peculiar as this sounds there are more discounted shows than non-discounted shows, which sounds attractive.
In my opinion, this is somewhat of a DFS effect. The discount and sales are endless! DFS are constantly having a sale as they have snuck around the meaning of sale. For something to go on sale, it must be advertised at full price for a certain period of time. I’m not sure of the length of time; in fact, I might be making some of this up. Anyway, they put the full price item in a magical catalogue that doesn’t really exist for that period of time, and then they put it in a sale so you feel like you’re saving money.
My point is, I doubt the existence of a ‘full price’. I doubt the full price of a theatre ticket. I was in London recently, the home of my rant, and I went to the Ian Rickson talk and decided to catch a show. Didn’t book in advance, just decided to wing it. I venture to the Cambridge Theatre, where Matilda currently resides. £69 to be the gods. This happened a lot. Her Majesty’s Theatre, home of Phantom of the Opera wanted £62 for stall seats and £36 for the gods. (By gods I mean circles and galleries – different theatres have different names for their levels so I just collectively call them the gods.)
As you may have guess from the review, I managed to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal Haymarket for £16. And I was centre stalls. Yes I will come again Theatre Royal Haymarket. That’s the second time I’ve got an awesome cheap seat and I’ll most likely go again. And that’s what the theatre needs. Returning customers due to great value and attracts new customers with competitive prices. But of course, theatres (especially mega musicals) are in competition to be bigger and better, making people feel their hard earned money has gone to good use. Realistically, if it is a good musical, it doesn’t need all that. The two best musicals I have seen in London are Blood Brothers and Betwixt because they are well written and acted. Not because they had a massive star and not because they had giant dragons, Shrek and Wicked, I’m looking at you. You don’t need a confetti cannon at the end of every show either.
Although I hate the word mainstream, theatre prices are making it elitist and it needs to be mainstream. I’m not talking Tesco Value theatre, but we need to remember Shakespeare made worlds with just his words. Theatre doesn’t need to be expensive, it need to be good. So please stop make musicals out of movies, or all the music from one band. I’m such a hypocrite because I really enjoyed Shrek and Spamalot. I’ll be more specific: fuck off Mamma Mia! I apologise for the rant. I think it’s over. In summary, stop alienating people with your prices!
Edit 2016: Yes, I still feel this way. Just replace Shrek with Kinky Boots, Made in Dagenham, Bend it like Beckham, Aladdin, Mrs Henderson Presents and The School of Rock.