London mayor Ken Livingstone kicked off the fourth annual “Get into London Theatre” event this morning (5 January) at the London Coliseum, with the help of cast members from several West End shows (See News, 10 Dec 2004).

The scheme - which sees ticket prices reduced for a range of popular plays, musicals and ballets - is run by the Society of London Theatre in association with Visit London. It was launched in direct response to the dwindling number of theatregoers following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Livingstone was joined at today’s event by Jill Halfpenny, who will soon be performing in Chicago at the Adelphi; Corin Redgrave, who is set to star in the RSC’s King Lear at the Albery; Danny John-Jules, from Playboy of the West Indies at the Tricycle; and Joanna Riding, nominated for a Theatregoers’ Choice Award for her performance in Blithe Spirit at the Savoy (click here to vote now).

Ballet dancers Begona Cao and Fabien Reimar from English National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, Richard Suart and Richard Mitchell from the English National Opera’s The Pirates of Penzance, and flamenco dancer Helena, who is performing at the Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival, also attended today’s launch.

Since the ticket promotion began three years ago, it has sold more than 168,000, at prices from £10 at smaller venues to £30 for best seats at larger theatres. This year there are about 90 shows taking part in the project, which runs until mid-March. They include leading musicals such as The Woman in White, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. Speaking today, Livingstone said he was pleased to support London’s theatres, and described the city as the theatre capital of the world.

Commenting on the need to encourage more theatregoing in the current climate, Joanna Riding told “I have noticed more tourists in theatres now than there were for a couple of years after 9/11, though I don’t think it has quite got back to the way it was.” She added: “Schemes like this help enormously, and I sense there has been some improvement, but there is still a way to go.”

Danny John-Jules echoed the actress’ sentiments. “It is inevitable that, if all London businesses are affected by outside events, theatres will be too, because in the end they are just businesses. But I think there has been an increase in the number of people visiting the theatre recently, which is great.”

Lines are open now for performances until 18 March 2005. All tickets must be booked by 18 February. Call 0870 8402468 for more information.

- by Caroline Ansdell