Lloyd Webber attacks 'Independent' campaign for cheaper theatre seats

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The Independent Culture

Andrew Lloyd Webber defends himself and his fellow West End theatre owners and impresarios today over the cost of London theatre tickets. And he warns that ticket prices may have to increase further.

Andrew Lloyd Webber defends himself and his fellow West End theatre owners and impresarios today over the cost of London theatre tickets. And he warns that ticket prices may have to increase further.

In a letter to The Independent, Lord Lloyd-Webber, who is the West End's biggest theatre owner, as well as a hugely successful composer, claims leading producers "should be canonised for philanthropy".

The Independent has campaigned for producers to lower ticket prices for selected performances to bring in a new, younger audience. Under the "Lister Experiment", best seats have been offered at cinema prices for shows including the Queen musical We Will Rock You and productions in the Royal Shakespeare Company's season of rare Jacobean plays.

The experiment saw more than 1,000 people buy £40 tickets for £11.50 for a performance of We Will Rock You.

Most producers and theatre-owners are reluctant to discuss ticket prices, or the booking fees charged on each ticket. Last week, leading figures in West End theatre claimed the "squalor" of the capital's streets and London's transport problems were keeping audiences away.

On Thursday, Sir Cameron Mackintosh made it clear he thought theatre owners should also take responsibility, when he announced he would spend £7m renovating his theatres in the West End.

But Lord Lloyd-Webber, who owns 13 London theatres, not only opposes reducing ticket prices in his letter, but warns they could rise. He writes: "Producers would love to see the price of tickets reduced but the awful truth is they really need to be increased if new productions are to be possible in the commercial, unsubsidised theatre sector. No producer wants to do this."

Lord Lloyd-Webber also bemoans the financial difficulties of putting on a show when you have to cast children. The law demands children must be triple-cast with an adult chaperone for every two children.

For a forthcoming production of The Sound of Music, 21 children and 11 adult chaperones will be required to cover the seven roles for children .

While reaction to The Independent's campaign has shown there is public discontent about high ticket prices, Lord Lloyd-Webber says West End producers "have to pay credit card commissions and often very generous group discounts".

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