Guest Blog: Young, Skint & Can't Afford Theatre?Date: 8 June 2010
My disclaimer on this article is that yes, many of the offers I’m going to tell you about only apply to those of us lucky enough to be the right side of 26, but by no means all. Where London beats New York hands down is in providing affordable and even cheap ways to go to the theatre that aren't just for students.
The A Night Less Ordinary scheme has recently come under scrutiny for failing to meet targets (only 174,717 tickets were given away last year when initial estimates had been around 500,000) and for having to raise even more money to publicise the initiative. What they spent the original publicity budget on is a marvel to me. My major gripe has always been that there's a general lack of awareness about the scheme - surely the point is to target young people who wouldn't normally go to theatre?
But even those of us who do know about it (unfortunately most of whom are already theatregoers anyway) are baffled by the impenetrable website. Not only is it difficult to find the participating venues, which can only be searched by your home postcode (what if you want to find a theatre that is not on your doorstep?) but it's also not made clear how to actually access the free tickets, simply sending you to the theatre's website when you click “get free tickets now”.
Often when I’ve heard my friends talking about the free under 26 tickets scheme they make some forlorn aside that they've not signed up for it so can’t benefit from it. And then I tell them that the best thing about this initiative is that you don’t even have to sign up! Not that you’d ever know that from the website. So here’s tip number one: always ring up the theatre and speak to the box office.
What A Night Less Ordinary isn’t is internet-friendly, so try and speak to an actual human being and find out when there are free under 26 tickets available for that individual theatre. Unfortunately, unless the show's not very popular, it's unlikely that you’ll be able to get free tickets on the day. Theatres only get a certain allocation of free tickets, so tip number two: plan ahead! As much as planning is antithetical to the very nature of us young people, it’s a small price to pay to pay nothing at all.
Some theatres will only offer free tickets on certain days of the week or for particular performances, so you have to try and be flexible. And, like this article, different theatres have different disclaimers. The Royal Court, for example, only allows you to get one set of two free tickets per year and it's only for the shows in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. But, if you go with the same friend that’s at least two shows a year you can benefit from.
If, however, you’ve run out of your allocation of free tickets or you are, god forbid, over the age of 25, you can still go to the Royal Court for a ridiculously reasonable ten whole pence. Eight standing places go on sale one hour before each performance for only 10p and despite the “restricted view” label on the ticket, I could see everything perfectly. And that's tip number three: don't be afraid to stand.
But to be fair to those friends whose forlorn asides I scoffed at, some of the theatres have set up their own versions of A Night Less Ordinary (similarly only available for 16-25s) and for those schemes you do need to sign up.
Even some theatres who are already part of A Night Less Ordinary offer further monetary incentives for punters:
Tip number five: never pay more than £5 to see Shakespeare. He may be the most successful playwright of all time but you can’t expect us to fork out more than a fiver to watch a play that we already know the ending to! Thankfully, you don’t have to:
And finally, for those of us that have grown up in the rise of social media, tip number seven: be internet-savvy. Join groups or become fans of theatres that you like on Facebook, follow theatre companies that you admire on Twitter – you’d be amazed at some of the offers. From workshop productions with up-and-coming directors to rehearsed readings with stellar casts, it’s worth your while to be proactive when it comes to theatre.
And remember, every play needs an audience, so there are no downsides to finding a great deal. What theatres crave are young audiences so in actual fact, you’re really doing them a favour. Happy Hunting!
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