Award-winning West End director Robert Icke fears theatre will be dead within 50 years if inflated ticket prices are not curtailed.
Icke, who is currently directing Hamlet in the Harold Pinter Theatre, said that younger audiences would be unable to fork out the current cost of a seat in the West End.
Andrew Scott, starring as Hamlet and more famously known for his role as Moriarty in Sherlock, only agreed to the West End transfer if cheap seats were offered for under 30s.
Since its transfer to the West End from the Almeida Theatre, Hamlet now has tickets on sale from £15 to £95, with 300 tickets for under £30 at every performance.
According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Scott said that the discount tickets were “absolutely a condition of doing the transfer, for both of us.”
“I am so passionate about it,” said Scott. “I think it’s disgusting the pricing of theatre tickets in this country. We have to do something about it.
“However much we talk in the theatre about bringing young people in, you can’t pay £75 or £80 or £90 for a ticket.”
According to the Telegraph newspaper, a study by the Society of London Theatre earlier this year found the average theatre ticket price had risen by five per cent to £45, although top-priced tickets for West End shows have been known to go as high as £240.
Speaking on BBC Front Row, Icke said: “It makes me really angry because theatre has a big problem with younger audiences.
“The industry’s going to have to address it and sort it out because otherwise we’re dead. In 50 or 60 years, there will be no audience.”
When Icke commented on the importance of gaining a young audience in modern theatre, he said: “It’s sort of a one shot kill now because theatre is so expensive that it’s our responsibility to make it as exciting as Netflix or the Xbox.
“So that if there is somebody who’s never been to see this play, or indeed a Shakespeare play, or maybe any play before…I want them to leave thinking ‘that was exciting. And I might like to do that again, or go back and see something else’.”
The importance of providing cheap tickets for young theatre goers has also been shown through a recent initiative to provide an “unofficial, ethical alternative” to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s £5 ticket programme, which is sponsored by the British multinational oil and gas company BP.
More than £2,500 (€2,875/$3,230) was raised in five days by a ticket scheme set up to challenge arts sponsorship by oil companies.
RSC signed an extension deal with BP last year for an additional five years to ensure it could continue its £5 ticket scheme.
The scheme is attempting to crowdfund £10,000 to be able to purchase RSC tickets at full price and sell them to under-25s for £5, in an effort to demonstrate that “ethical alternatives to oil sponsorship exist”.
Image: Kimberly Hobart