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Posts tagged ‘Trafalgar Studios’


Plays of the Future – A Ticket Lottery

Like a lot of things in life, buying a theatre ticket is a bit of a lottery. Advance publicity is such that it’s quite possible to be made aware of productions months, or even sometimes more than a year,  before the first night. So the question arises: How far ahead are you prepared to commit yourself? Do you plan holidays, weddings and other major events in your life before or after buying theatre tickets?

And of course, buying a ticket for a play is quite akin to buying the proverbial pig in a poke. You may find that the tickets you’ve looked after for so long turns out to be for a performance that you feel like walking out of at the end of the first act. You never know.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 20.53.17Much of the long lead-in time to many plays is because of the hectic schedules of the many TV and film stars who feel their acting career is not complete without treading the boards of the London stage. The pulling power of these celebrities is inestimable; they frequently perform for what is for them a low wage, yet the run is likely to be sold out and sold out very quickly simply because their name is on the bill. No wonder theatre producers are anxious to acquire their services. The Young Vic website faltered and tickets were sold in record time when it was announced that Gillian Anderson was to play Blanche Dubois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Martin Freeman, of Sherlock and Hobbit fame, has attracted adoring audiences to his portrayal of Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios.  And apparently, visitors to the Barbican website were told that there were about number 30,000 in a queue when they attempted to buy tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet more than a year ahead!Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 20.57.31

And with the rise of star power in the theatre has come the inexorable rise of ticket prices. To be fair, non West End houses have shown a little more restraint in their pricing (although it must be remembered that theatres like the National are lucky recipients of subsidies), but even community theatres like the Almeida, Hampstead and the Tricycle have had a considerable price hike.  Whereas it doesn’t seem that long ago it was only for lavish musicals theatres charged £50 or more for a top-price seat, this is now, more often than not, the second or third tier price level for the majority of performances in the West End. And at a recent Kevin Spacey one-man show about the American lawyer Clarence Darrow, the top-price seats were over £100! This to me does seem rather disproportionate considering what you could get for that princely sum. When you add to the price of a ticket the extras entailed with a night at the theatre, travel there, eating out, then you wonder why so many people choose to go to the theatre at all.

Yet a recent poll revealed that more people go to the theatre than to football matches and that attendances by a younger audience is on the rise.  And all over the country there’s always the option of going to smaller, fringe venues where the quality can often be high and the prices low. Paying a fortune for a performance doesn’t guarantee a brilliant experience, and you can be awestruck when you’ve spent just a few pounds on a theatre ticket. As I said, life’s a bit of a lottery!

jeannette-adjusted31Jeannette Nelson, arts critic with special interest in theatre


View from the Stalls – London Theatre 2011

Those of you who may have read my pearls of wisdom on London’s theatre scene will know I am not the greatest fan of commercial West End theatres.  Too often the hype takes hold and I fork out for what almost always is a pricey ticket (even those with substantial discounts are not cheap) only to leave the theatre disappointed and vowing to discriminate more wisely in the future.

Dominic West in Butley

Dominic West in Butley

That’s not to say that the West End never hosts a gem of a play;  it’s really a question of winkling them out.  Happily there is at least one to regale us playing currently: Simon Gray’s Butley at the Duchess Theatre.  Well staged and admirably acted, notably by Dominic West playing the eponymous anti-hero, this play may be celebrating its fortieth anniversary but its rather bleak theme of the disintegration of a rather unpleasant man is, perhaps unfortunately, timeless.  

Butley is an academic whose world, bit by bit, is falling apart, yet Gray has crafted his play so skilfully that rather surprisingly there are some real laugh out loud moments to savour. The supporting cast adds depth and substance to the plot.  This, despite the laughs, is not a fun night out; as this is what so many West End theatre goers seem to want, it’s possible to get a good seat at a discounted price – the tickets booth at Leicester Square (and also now at Brent Cross) are offering almost half price seats for most performances.  A worthwhile piece of drama.
Simon Callow - Being ShakespeareAnother not to be missed performance (though I have yet to see it) must be Simon Callow Being Shakespeare at the Trafalgar Studios.   I witnessed this actor reading all of Shakespeare’s sonnets many years ago and it was mesmerising – his one-man-show promises the same.  But instead of paying £45 for your seat, try – they are offering the seats for £20 + £1 booking fee.  Try this before opening night though, my pessimistic view of what theatregoers want may be wrong in this instance and then the discounted tickets will disappear!
I’ve just read of three more gems due to open in the West End after the summer. Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones will star in Driving Miss Daisy at the Wyndhams Theatre;

Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy

Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy

  Mark Rylance will reprise his star turn in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem which was sold out during the original run and was one of the best plays I saw in 2010.  

And finally the National Theatre’s latest fun-packed hit, One Man, Two Guvnors starring the irrepressible James Corden and adapted by Richard Bean from Carlo Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters One man two guvnorswill open at the Adelphi Theatre in November.  This hits the spot for the Christmas outing of the season.  I saw it at the National a couple of weeks ago it had people rolling in the aisles.  Whatever it costs, this is real value for money!
Jeannette Nelson A bit of a culture vulture, Jeannette enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
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