To many, the idea of going to see a West End show is not only a special afternoon or evening out, but often seen as a pastime for the well-off. As theatre lovers will attest, the industry has drastically altered over the years and has, in recent times, become far more accessible to everyone, no matter your income, age or social class.
In fact, over the past decade it’s been possible to access a variety of stage shows for some bargain prices – as little as £20 or £30 for great seats – yet there are some who now think those days are firmly behind us, with post-Covid and cost of living era prices rising significantly.
One of London’s top theatre producers, Patrick Gracey, spoke to The Stage about the costs theatregoers endure to see the latest shows, especially after David Tennant spoke out about how “ludicrous” pricing had become.
Gracey (Dr Semmelweis)was quick to note that it’s the purchase of tickets that keeps things afloat, stating how a patron’s fee can “support an individual production that employs over 150 people each night, and contributes to the employment of many hundreds more artisans, technicians and professionals”. He further explains: "The cost of producing a show has risen overtime because it is such a labour-intensive business, reliant on highly skilled individuals whose work cannot be replaced by machines or AI."
So, how can people hope to still see their favourite shows in a period of economic hardship? Well, there are a few ways.
Booking online is always better. Delfont Mackintosh Theatres offers a wide range of tickets and buying online will get you cheaper prices, as will booking in advance. DMT goes out of its way to offer affordable trips to the theatre.
“We do benchmark our prices against other operators (and indeed local pubs regarding the bar areas) to ensure that we are giving the best value for money to our patrons,” said a DMT spokesperson. “We also do post-show surveys and analyse the responses, which include questions about the bar process. In the main, we get very favourable responses from people surprised at how reasonable prices are. We constantly strive for best value and have just agreed to a new ice cream supplier, Marshfield Farm, who will help us maintain our current pricing as well as reduce our carbon footprint.”
The Leicester Square-situated TKTS booth is ideal for a last-minute show though. They offer half-price tickets on the day of or right before a show, and even a week earlier. If you prefer to live life on the edge and have a flexible schedule, you can queue directly at the theatre’s box office in the returns and allocated standby ticket line.
You can also try your luck in the ticket lottery, where you can secure seats to the top shows, such as Hamilton, at incredibly cheap prices. There are a very limited number of these available so chances of success are slim. But, if you do get lucky you can nab a place at the most talked about show in town for as little as £10!
In short, it seems that the increase in ticket costs is a means to compensate for the rising costs in creating the shows themselves. Either we as an audience find smarter ways to still enjoy the wonders of theatre – whether it’s finding cheaper tickets via the methods highlighted above – or, like most other aspects of our lives in 2023, attempt to budget effectively so we may continue to enthral ourselves in the joys of theatreland.