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Stop surcharging theatre tickets

Theatre ticket prices are loaded with extras and they shouldn’t be. If a seat is priced at, say, £50, then that’s what the purchaser should pay. A venue or company which actually needs to charge £55  should write it on the ticket. We need transparency. For most people many tickets are obscenely expensive anyway without their being topped up with what one waggish mate of mine disapprovingly dubs “the ticket tax”.

It’s rife in London and in major venues elsewhere. I recently bought a pair of £44 tickets for Theatre Royal Brighton. That’s £88 I was spending. I did it online and printed my own tickets which is, obviously the easiest and cheapest option for the theatre as well as being convenient for me. It costs nobody anything. So why did I have to pay a £3.50 “transaction charge” on top of the £88?

Yes, I know this is so common that many purchasers don’t even notice but think about it for a moment. Just imagine the outcry if you or I tried to buy a pullover, book or toaster online or in a shop and were told that we had to pay an additional £3.50 on top of the purchase price just for the privilege of buying the item. Outrageous? Definitely, and exactly the same applies to theatre tickets.

Then there’s the restoration levy – sorely needed, maybe, if it will help to prevent any more bits of theatre ceiling dropping onto punters and preserve our historic theatres for future generations. But, if it’s not voluntary it should always be incorporated into the stated price of the ticket and never added on as a compulsory extra.

Want your tickets posted to you, in the old fashioned way? Well you will pay at least double what it actually costs to put the tickets in an envelope and frank it at business rates. So part of what you pay becomes yet another component of the ticket tax. In some cases that’s three additions to the stated ticket price – almost as bad as the so called “budget” airlines. And sometimes on top of all this, the organisation has the temerity to tell you that it would welcome a tip – sorry, voluntary donation –  as well.

We worry a lot in this industry these days about inclusivity and attracting new audiences. Ticket pricing which is at best opaque and, at worst, little short of dishonest, is not likely to help.


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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