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Sonia Friedman: Full price Hamlet previews were ‘wrong decision’

Sonia Friedman. Photo: Eliza Power Sonia Friedman. Photo: Eliza Power
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Sonia Friedman has admitted she made the “wrong decision” to charge full price for previews of Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.

The West End producer also vowed her shows would now always charge a discounted rate for preview performances.

Her pledge comes after the first preview of Hamlet was reviewed by a number of national newspapers, breaking the critical embargo set by the production team.

In the wake of the controversy, it is understood that Friedman met with critics last week to discuss a review embargo for the upcoming West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which she is producing.

Both The Times and the Daily Mail published early reviews of Hamlet, while writers from The Telegraph and Radio Times also published first-look previews.

Times critic Kate Maltby later defended her review by highlighting that preview tickets were the same price as for performances after the official opening.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, Friedman claimed she charged more than usual for previews in order to subsidise 9,000 cheaper £10 tickets across the play’s run.

She explained: “Many limited-run plays don’t always have a pre and post-opening price difference. In the case of Hamlet, we didn’t have a pre-opening price difference because we’d made a different decision, which was to have 100 tickets at £10 across the house [every night], so we had total access.”

“We were only doing 12 weeks, it would have made it impossible to do the £10 tickets [otherwise],” she said.

Acknowledging fault, she continued: “In retrospect and in hindsight, I made the wrong decision. And I can say that I have absolutely revised my company’s policy as a result of what happened.”

“Whatever my decision on access is going to be, I will always have a pre and post-opening difference in pricing – because we lost our moral position in that argument.”

Adding that she “learned a huge amount” from the furore, Friedman went on to stress the importance of the preview process, and claimed critics broke a “gentleman’s agreement” by publishing early reviews.

She said: “We were all taken by surprise, and we felt very let down. The preview process is really crucial for the creative team to learn what they are doing in front of an audience.”

The producer continued: “You hope you will have done all the work necessary in that period, with an audience, to be ready for the national critics to then give their verdict. That’s the transaction; that’s the gentleman’s agreement.”

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