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Lords urge government to investigate rising price of West End tickets

The House of Lords committee will investigate the impact of the 2003 Licensing Act. Photo: Chbaum/Shutterstock

Members of the House of Lords have expressed concern over the rising cost of West End theatre tickets and called on the government to investigate.

Peers debated the issue in the House of Lords last week after The Stage’s latest ticketing survey found the cost of top-price seats increased by nearly a fifth between 2017 and 2018.

The Stage ticketing survey 2018: Top ticket prices up, cheapest get cheaper [1]

Liberal democrat peer Patrick Boyle, who tabled the debate, asked the government to address the cost of theatre tickets in London and the effect this has on theatregoers.

“The main beneficiaries of these higher prices are not so much the producers of the plays and musicals, but rather those who control access to theatres: the theatre owners, the ticket sellers and the discredited secondary ticket market.

“London theatres are already becoming too expensive for many regular theatregoers and I hope the government will take this issue very seriously. As we all know, one of the many reasons that people come to London is its theatres, but they are gradually becoming too expensive for anyone to be able to attend major plays.”

According to The Stage’s research, the most expensive tickets in the West End rose by more than 60% since 2012, with the average top-end seat priced at £117.52.

The highest prices include shows such as Hamilton, where top-price tickets are £250, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which charges £175 per part for the two-part play.

Thomas Ashton, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, argued that while the highest price tickets have gone up, credit is due to those making the effort to offer cheaper seats.

He also promised to advocate “as hard as we can for the arts” in the upcoming spending review, after Liberal Democrat peer Jane Bonham Carter called for more arts funding outside London to support the regional subsidised sector.

Former National Theatre executive director Genista McIntosh, who is a Labour peer, added: “I also ask him [Ashton] to confirm that putting on a live performance of any kind, particularly at scale, is extremely expensive and very difficult to achieve, requiring a great variety of skills and talents. The more we support it, the more likely we are to find homes for all our young people who might be looking to those industries for jobs in the future.”

Think West End tickets are overpriced? Why a breakdown of the costs proves they’re not a rip-off [2]