Society of London Theatre president Kenny Wax took aim at West End ticket prices in his opening address at this year’s Olivier Awards, arguing that the rising cost of theatregoing has made regular trips unaffordable for many families.
The Play That Goes Wrong producer said the industry should “take a good hard look at ticket pricing across the West End” to ensure that theatres do not become the preserve of those who can afford to see the shows.
“We cannot get away from the fact that the average cost of a top-price ticket has risen steeply in the past few years. It’s a familiar argument that charging more at the top end enables us to have a range of low prices at the bottom end.
“We must find a way of making tickets affordable, particularly for the younger generation. We must guard against a pricing policy which reduces the average household to making a visit to the theatre an annual treat rather than a regular occurrence,” Wax said.
Research by The Stage found that the most expensive seats in the West End increased in price by nearly 20% between 2017 and 2018 and now average more than £100. Top-end tickets for shows such as Hamilton, The Book of Mormon and Wicked now cost more than £200 each.
Opening the Olivier Awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, Wax added: “Make no mistake about it, putting on a live performance of any kind is expensive and also very complex, but for new work to continue to flourish we must encourage our potential audiences to take risks on new productions.”
Wax was not alone in criticising West End prices at the event, with best actress winner Patsy Ferran arguing that accessible ticketing policies for young people should be a priority.
“We have to always focus on the people who are our future, so invest in young people more.
“I feel slightly nauseous every time that I have to spend £50 on a ticket – £40, that’s a treat. The fact that sometimes £30 is a bargain is ridiculous. That should be standard,” she said.
Ferran won best actress in a play for Summer and Smoke, which also picked up best revival at the awards.
Read Kenny Wax’s opening address in full here