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Mark Rylance: ‘RSC and National Theatre tickets cost too much’

Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Photo: Tristram Kenton Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Mark Rylance has claimed subsidised companies such as the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company are charging “way too much” for tickets.

The actor, who last appeared on stage at the National in 2000, also revealed that he insists on affordable seating whenever he signs up to act in the West End.

Speaking at the launch of Artists Against TTIP, Rylance told The Stage that ticketing had drastically changed since his first acting job in 1980 at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, where seats were sold for 90p.

“I think they were rather embarrassed they’d raised it from 50p,” he explained. “That’s what government subsidy should be attached to. You can’t have the RSC and the National receiving millions of pounds of money without a lower price, in my feeling. A lower price should be part of it.”

Adding that tickets for the two subsidised theatre companies cost “way too much”, he continued: “I think it absolutely has to be accessible, this stuff. And that should be the condition of subsidy.”

According to The Stage’s ticketing survey, the most expensive tickets at not-for-profit theatres averaged £47.84, while on average the least expensive ticket was £16.05 – both an increase on figures from last year.

Rylance, who will soon star in Farinelli and the King at the Duke of York’s Theatre, added he was “very much” concerned by the cost of West End ticket prices. But he then revealed all of his West End acting contracts include a certain allocation of affordable seating.

“[Farinelli and the King producer] Sonia Friedman’s been very much with me as a partner and my concerns – when I make a contract to act in the West End there must be affordable tickets. So I think we have a large number of £10 or £25 tickets on sale for Farinelli and the King.”

He continued: “When we went to New York with Twelfth Night and Richard III, we had something like 250 tickets for $25. It was unprecedented on Broadway. The whole upper balcony, which is not bad seat, was $25. And we had a wonderful audience up there.”

The actor claimed that low tickets prices made theatre accessible to a much more diverse range of people.

“I still go to the Globe, where I work, and see an audience in the yard – they’re only paying five quid – that I don’t see anywhere else in the theatres,” he explained. “A diverse audience of young people and all kinds of mixed culture people in the audience there. I think it makes an enormous difference.”

Rylance’s comments follow those of fellow actor Juliet Stevenson, who told The Stage at the same event that she couldn’t afford to buy tickets to a West End show.

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