RSC cuts its show prices for key workers

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The Independent Culture

Young people, nurses and teachers are to get cut-price tickets when the Royal Shakespeare Company takes up residence in a new home in central London, making a night at the theatre half the price of a trip to a neighbouring cinema.

Young people, nurses and teachers are to get cut-price tickets when the Royal Shakespeare Company takes up residence in a new home in central London, making a night at the theatre half the price of a trip to a neighbouring cinema.

Fifty £5 tickets a night, including the best seats in the house, will be available to people aged 16 to 25 during the RSC's six-month season at the Albery theatre in the West End. Key public sector workers, such as teachers and nurses, will be able to buy £15 tickets for matinees and Monday evening performances.

But with a top price of £34, the season of tragedies, including Hamlet, with Toby Stephens, and King Lear, with Corin Redgrave, will be cheaper than rival West End productions for everyone.

The deal follows similar schemes in the West End to open up productions to wider audiences by offering cheaper seats. The Independent launched a campaign for cheaper theatre tickets for young people. The Lister Experiment, conceived by the arts editor, David Lister, advocated having theatre tickets at cinema prices one day a week to encourage a new and younger audience. A few enterprising West End producers took up the idea.

Paul Roberts, a key producer of West End musicals, was the first, and he noticed that it brought in first-time theatregoers. The RSC's ticketing policy is being introduced as the company returns to London after two years when it has had no home. Many shows were unable to transfer from Stratford or transferred only if they were able to win the support of commercial producers. The shows are running in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Michael Boyd, the RSC's artistic director, said: "It's been my ambition since I took over at the RSC for London audiences to enjoy a season of our work and not just those productions that commercial producers are willing to take a risk on. The Albery's a favourite theatre among West End audiences and artists, but the important thing about this season is that we're bringing productions to London under our own control.

"These are not co-productions: this is a six-month RSC season in the West End that proves we're serious again about a regular and sustained presence in the capital."

However, Mr Boyd said the residency at the Albery was temporary, for six months from November. A decision on a permanent base in London will be made once plans for re-developing the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford are finalised. Sir Christopher Bland, the RSC's new chairman, confirmed that the company had abandoned the proposal of the former artistic director Adrian Noble to demolish the theatre, which has been criticised for its sight lines.

In addition to the tragedies - Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Macbeth - and Euripides' Hecuba with Vanessa Redgrave, the RSC is also bringing a season of new plays to the Soho theatre in London for three weeks next March.

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