Purse strings may be being tightened and fists planted firmly into pockets, but the luxurious practice of going to the theatre seems to have risen above the limitations of the recession – in 2010 London theatre enjoyed a buoyant year. Total box office receipts reached a stunning total of £512,331,808 meaning that more than 14 million people attended plays and musicals. Perhaps the gargantuan figures were due to the amount of high quality productions that graced the stage that year, or maybe it was simply the sense of fun and escapism that a night in the stalls can bring amongst the doom and gloom of financial crisis.
For a student, however, it is not quite so easy to treat yourself to a night out at the theatre with the average West End ticket price now standing at £43, not such a friendly figure to a student budget. Luckily for us, though, there are a number of schemes and initiatives targeted at young people that not only sell tickets at a very low cost, but also provide access to workshops and debates for those passionate about plays. The innovative ‘A Night Less Ordinary’ scheme that provided 16-25 year olds with a free night at the theatre has now been culled by government cuts, but fortunately opportunities do still remain for the chance to experience high quality performances at low prices.
Perhaps most rewarding of these is the National Theatre ‘Entry Pass’ scheme. A short form returned to the box office will result in being given a membership card which entitles the bearer to see any play for £5, and bring a friend for only £7.50. It may be too late to see the critically acclaimed production of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, but the coming season will see such exciting productions as Zoe Wanamaker in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, and James Corden in One Man, Two Guv’nors. In addition to this, the National provides the chance for members to attend discussions with cast members, and workshops, such as an insight into digital theatre and how to perform combat on stage.
More locally, the Chichester Theatre in Sussex sells tickets to students for only £7, giving attendees a chance to see productions such as Trevor Nunn’s Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead before they hit the West End. Theatre Royal Haymarket’s ‘Masterclass’ scheme gives a limited number of tickets to young people for £2, but also provides free workshops from some of the biggest theatre stars treading the boards today. The ‘Masterclass’ can be seen in action when it visits the Brighton Fringe Festival from 15-17th May. The Old Vic, home to artistic director Kevin Spacey, provides tickets for every production for only £12 to those under the age of 25, whilst the Royal Shakespeare Company provides invitations to special events for young people, as well as cheap tickets. Additionally, for those of us in this lucky age band, The Barbican’s ‘freeB’ scheme boasts a number of 30,000 free tickets to theatre, dance, art and music events.
The importance of theatre in our society is evidently crucial when regarding the huge figures that demonstrate its popularity – however, some of its magic is evident too in its unwillingness to close the door on those of us who can’t afford the top price tickets, allowing us to experience the thrill of watching the works we trawl over in the library brought to life, making us understand why we study them, for only a fraction of the price.