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National Theatre scraps ‘plus ones’ for critics

Subsidised venues including the National Theatre are less reliant on public funding than ever, Arts Council England data shows. Photo: Catherine Gerbrands The National Theatre will charge those accompanying theatre critics to press nights £20 from August. Photo: Catherine Gerbrands
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The National Theatre is to stop offering free ‘plus ones’ for critics and other audience members invited to its press nights.

From August, press tickets for productions in the Olivier and Lyttelton theatres will be restricted to one – with the option to buy a second at a reduced £20 rate.

A National spokeswoman suggested the move was part of a drive to invite a wider range of critics to opening nights – including representatives from “online media” – and highlighted the theatre’s “finite resources” when it came to free tickets.

She said: “We are committed to reaching new and diverse audiences, and the finite resources of the NT press office are essential in helping us to achieve this ambition.

“The media landscape continues to change at an ever-increasing pace and we need to reach out to new audiences through wider engagement with broadcast, print and online media.”

The change brings press policy at the Olivier and Lyttelton more in line with the National’s smaller Dorfman stage, which already limits press invites to one per person.

The policy was due to be implemented later this month at the opening of The Threepenny Opera. Critics invited were told “it may be possible to buy a second ticket” in some cases.

However the move was pushed back to August following concerns raised by the Critics’ Circle, with the National’s head of press Vicky Kington conceding the shift had been introduced too quickly.

In an email to the Critics’ Circle, she explained: “Having listened to your concerns it is clear that we did not give enough time to introduce this change.

“With this in mind, we can now confirm that the NT’s policy of offering a pair of press tickets on press night to each show in the Olivier and Lyttelton will remain in place until August 2016, when the new policy of one ticket, plus one to buy, will begin.”

Reacting to the news on Twitter, former Daily Telegraph diarist Tim Walker said it was a “daft move” by the National, though Daily Mail entertainment writer Baz Bamigboye said critics were “grown-ups not children” and could afford to buy a second ticket.

The Stage’s Mark Shenton added that it removed a “significant perk” of a theatre critic’s job.

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