According to some we are living in times of austerity and with government cuts in the arts it isn’t only theatregoers who will be suffering with potential financial hardship in the coming months, but also the establishments that produce shows across the nation. Significant funding is all well and good for the arts but the bottom line is that shows need a thriving paying audience in order to be viable and for investment in future productions.
So, what should we be spending our well-earned money on in 2013 in order to not only satisfy our own artistic needs but also to help sustain British theatre.
First and foremost, do you know what show is currently being performed in your ‘local’ theatre and what is on in the season ahead? If not then you really should be supporting them as when you do decide you want to attend a show you may find they have closed due to lack of support! There are a number of regional theatres that are producing theatres, which are venues for productions that may transfer to the West End; Chichester Festival Theatre being a prime example. As a side note there is not a winter 2012 season due to a rebuilding programme (RENEW). The Arts Council England (ACE) has awarded £12million towards the RENEW redevelopment project.
While London’s West End, with about 40 theatres, may be seen to be the pinnacle of theatre in Britain it really shouldn’t be the only place in London to spend your hard earned cash. As well as regional theatres you really should be checking out Off West End venues, most are listed at http://www.offwestend.com/index.php/theatres/listing/) where there is a wide range of shows being performed throughout the year.
The benefit of going to see a West End show is that you will most likely get first class entertainment, and with many of the venues having Victorian architecture you will know that you have had a memorable night out. You will also most likely see established and high class performers and being a fan you may also decide to pay frequent visits to see the same show. Buying theatre tickets is like most things in life; you get what you pay for… but pay what you can afford. Most theatres will offer day tickets at lower prices and you can also sit in the balcony or the upper circle at fairly low prices (depending on the show). I have sat close to the back of the theatre for some shows and have appreciated the overall perspective of the stage better than when sitting close to the front, Billy Elliot The Musical being one example. The ‘best’ seats for you may not be the most expensive.
West End theatres usually have quite a cosmopolitan audience and while this may be good for our economy I don’t think it always provide an audience with an understanding of theatre etiquette. What you will usually find in Off West End venues is an audience who have gone to see the show, and not to have a picnic or just add yet another show to their ‘tick list’. Off West End venues also allow the audience to be ‘up close’ and there is nothing like the cast performing within a few feet of you. You really do feel part of the action. (A fond recollection of mine is having some of the cast of Betwixt sit down next to me during the show). Off West End shows can often be seen from as little as £5/£10 for a ticket; there are also the occasional free productions, so keep an eye open for those!
On the subject of cheaper tickets being offered for productions and what to look forward to in 2013, the Michael Grandage season looks impressive, with a season of five plays with over 100,000 tickets being sold at just £10. With a stunning cast including Dame Judi Dench, Sheridan Smith, Jude Law, Ben Whishaw, Daniel Radcliffe, David Walliams and Simon Russell Beale.
Other exciting productions already due to arrive in London in 2013 include: A Chorus Line, The Audience, The Book of Mormon, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and West Side Story together with the pending announcement of a venue for Miss Saigon for either 2013 or 2014.
During the next few months The Bodyguard is likely to consolidate its position as an established West End musical, but with not so good reviews there are question marks over Viva Forever!. Time will tell as ultimately it is ‘bums on seats’ that keep a show open and not the critics.
Personally I think there is quite a variation on offer for theatregoers in London and the forthcoming year will make it hard for people to budget sensibly on what to see and what to miss. Yes of course there will be those that say we don’t have enough of this and not enough of that, but generally speaking I think there is a lot on offer. I would always suggest that wherever possible you buy tickets from a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) www.star.org.uk.
Wherever you decide to spend your theatre tickets budget, enjoy!
Best wishes for a Happy New Year and a brilliant 2013 to all!
Monday 31st December 2012