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Robert Icke takes aim at ‘out of hand’ subsidised ticket prices

Robert Icke. Photo: Dave Benett
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Theatre ticket prices have got “completely out of hand” in both the commercial and the subsidised sectors, Robert Icke has claimed.

The director said the West End was often blamed for the rising cost of going to the theatre, but that he was fearful of the number of people who were excluded by prices at publicly funded venues.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, Icke said: “I feel like the ticket prices have been allowed to get completely out of hand. One of the arguments for subsidy, when it was initiated, was not to enable the artists, but to enable the audiences. It was about saying, if you couldn’t afford to come and see my amazing company of actors at cost, then the subsidy is there to give you access to things that you otherwise might not have access to.”

“I guess I feel like that is shifting in some ways to become about the artists. The subsidised argument is becoming, ‘the subsidy is there to enable us as the artists to make what we want to make or express ourselves’,” he added.

Icke was speaking as his latest play opened at London’s Almeida Theatre, where he has acted as associate director for the past six years. The Doctor, an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Professor Bernhardi, is his final production in the role.

The Doctor review at the Almeida Theatre, London – ‘Juliet Stevenson is superb’

Icke said that in the 10 years he had been working in theatre, his fears about audience accessibility to the art form had grown.

He said he understood the argument for public funding being artist-focused, but added: “At the same time, when the ticket prices are such that it excludes a whole load of people who live in this city, a majority who live in the city, I feel really frightened about it. Whatever you’re saying on stage, the real entry point to discussion is the price of a ticket.”

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