Audiences should boycott premium Hamilton tickets (your views, February 8)
Regular theatregoers should boycott this outrageous increase in prices. If West End theatre, encouraged by Ticketmaster, goes the way of rock’n’roll, those of us who love theatre and are the backbone of its regular core audiences will be priced out and only the mega-shows will prosper.
It will wreck the ecology of our beloved British theatre, which remains the best in the world. We need to start a protest movement to call out excessive pricing.
The producers of Hamilton say that the three-document proof of identity required when you enter the theatre is to deter ticket touts. By charging a top price of £250 they are probably driving ticket touts out of business.
Initially, premium tickets were for the very best seats in the house: about 50 to 100 at each performance. Now the premium seats often represent more than half of the stalls seats and at some shows they are all stalls and dress circle seats that don’t have a restricted or side view. They go so far back that they are hardly premium any more.
This show has three levels of premium tickets at £250, £200 and £150. A top price of £150 for a hit show like this would seem more acceptable.
I saw Hamilton, which deserves all the praise it has received, from the upper circle, where the seats are reasonably priced and the view is good. It is hardly surprising that these are the seats that sell out first.
I suspect any premium seats still available in August and September will be snapped up by visiting Americans as, compared with Broadway, even the premium-price tickets are cheap.
Hamilton lottery tickets are £10 each – and regular tickets start from £20. Not all seats cost £200.
Paying tribute to Bob Carlton
Following your obituary of Bob Carlton I’d like to pay my own tribute to his role in helping solve the 1990s problems of the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, enabling it to remain friendly and vibrant into this, its 65th-anniversary year.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bob when he gave a pre-show talk during the 2014 valedictory run of his show Return to the Forbidden Planet, using a talented group of actor-musicians as he had done during his 17 years in the London Borough of Havering.
He certainly believed in ‘populist theatre’ and community involvement – and this policy has continued and developed with the current artistic director Douglas Rintoul.
In 2016, I appeared in the community chorus of Doug’s highly acclaimed debut production of Much Ado About Nothing, which was set during the Second World War. It was the best experience of a long amdram life.
I extend my deepest condolences to Bob’s family and salute the man without whose influence I doubt the Queen’s would have become my favourite theatre – the most welcoming in the east of England for two years running. I am proud to be a member of its supporters’ club.
David J Savage
South Ockendon, Essex
Can’t stand so many ovations
Mark Shenton’s assessment is correct (‘Is the trend for standing ovations getting out of hand?’, Comment, January 11, p7).
People paying for an expensive night out at the theatre need to justify it as a one-of-a-kind moment in their life – and younger generations have been manipulated by TV talent shows on which the audience is encouraged to respond excessively to even mediocre performances.
Here in America, the standing ovation has sadly been the default response to almost any performance for a couple of decades now, to the point that performers feel cheated if they don’t get one.
Many’s the time I’ve been given an icy glare by other patrons because I refused to stand. I still think it’s a response that should be reserved only for truly exceptional moments in the theatre. Actors should not get a standing ovation just for showing up and doing their job.
Quotes of the week
“As a very average actor myself, I know how generous and unself-conscious you have to be to be really good. I was always caught up in whether or not I looked silly. Every time I get a new cast around a table, I’m always genuinely moved by the care, intelligence and courage they bring to the work.”
Playwright Elinor Cook (Evening Standard)
“It’s very limiting to say you only want to see strong women. I have claimed, because I have written so many women, that I have the right to represent all kinds of women. If I want to represent a murderess, I want that right without being called misogynistic. Similarly I want to be free to portray silly women and weak women and level women; I want to portray all women.”
Playwright David Hare (Times)
“I find the abuse of power really upsetting but if I’m honest, what I find really sickening is all the agents subjecting their clients to it, knowing full well what’s going on. Like sanctioned pimping.”
Billie Piper on harassment in the entertainment industry (Sunday Times)
“Genuinely don’t understand why the (ACE) push for more regionalism in British TV is not being matched by support for regional theatres. Places like @TRPlymouth, @BristolOldVic, @HullTruck, @ClwydTweets and so many others are vital for new voices and new work.”
Playwright Jack Thorne (Twitter)
“[Regional Theatres] are having a hard time with cuts from local authorities, cuts from the Arts Council, and then rising prices. There’s a sort of dilatory attitude to public support of culture in this country. I think that government and education must and should play a part in it. It’s not a question of feather-bedding. It’s just part of the responsibility of a modern state. Go to France or Germany, Spain or Italy, and see it done much more responsibly. You can say, ‘Well, let it all die.’ I think that would be a terrible tragedy, particularly in this country, where there’s such an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage.”
Former National Theatre director Richard Eyre (Guardian)
“Sooner or later, you can see this land is going to be filled with six or seven elite companies all beaming their stuff out. And also all the money goes back, not into art, but to those elite buildings themselves.”
Northern Broadsides artistic director Barrie Rutter on live theatre screenings (Observer)
What you said on Facebook
Most of my theatre trips are solo and I am fine with it. You don’t need to worry about the other person’s reactions, and I often end up chatting to other people. I had trouble buying a ticket for Gypsy as it was one of a pair in a row. The box office released the seat after I complained. On the night, the lady sitting next to me told me she’d been struggling to book a single seat until one suddenly became available because of my booking the other.
You don’t have to pay for an interview on any other course type, so why should prospective students have to pay to audition? It excludes all working-class actors.
From the Wings
Commercial theatre has no responsibility to charge anything less than the market price. As in every other industry, the producers have a duty to their investors to achieve maximum returns. There’s plenty of affordable and accessible theatre from the National to the fringe – go and see that brilliant work instead.
Matthew George Frederick
Anybody who pays more than £200 for a theatre ticket must be daft.
Those who can pay for the high-priced ‘best’ seats are subsidising the rest who can’t or won’t, so we should be grateful to them.