Ticket offer to target West End sales slump

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The Independent Culture

Theatregoers will be offered top-price seats at three critically acclaimed West End productions this summer for as little as £10 under a new deal starting this week.

The Ambassador Theatre Group's "Summer in the City" promotion is the most ambitious attempt yet to combat a slump in West End attendances and follows a campaign by The Independent for cheaper seats.

The move will be welcomed by theatregoers who are now facing some of the highest ticket prices ever: the £50-a-seat barrier is expected to be broken for Friday and Saturday seats for Tonight's the Night, the Ben Elton-written musical based on old Rod Stewart songs, which opens in the autumn.

The Ambassador deal will be offered for three shows: the National Theatre's production of Vincent in Brixton, which opens at the Playhouse theatre tomorrow; the Shared Experience theatre company's production of After Mrs Rochester, about the life of the writer Jean Rhys. which opens at the Duke of York's theatre next week, and an all-male production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Edward Hall, son of Sir Peter Hall, which will be at the Comedy Theatre in August.

All three productions have been praised by critics. Vincent in Brixton won both Tony and Olivier awards on Broadway.

Top ticket prices would normally be £37.50, but under the "Summer in the City" deal, they are being offered at £10 each for all three shows, £15 for two, or £20 for one. A series of special educational and children's workshops, talks and other events will coincide with the offer.

Howard Panter, managing director of the Ambassador Theatre Group, said: "We think £30 to get to see three excellent ensemble productions is a very good deal. This is about giving the West End back to the people of London. If it works, we shall certainly repeat it.''

The moves reflect the increasing need by the West End to reclaim theatregoers put off by high prices, the threat of terrorist attacks and recession. The downturn has closed some shows and led others to struggle with low bookings.

Recent devices to revive trade have included child discount tickets for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and off-peak discounts for Les Misérables, My Fair Lady and The Phantom of the Opera.