Theatre thrives on 'pay what you can'

AN EXPERIMENT by a south London theatre complex, letting people pay whatever they can afford for tickets, is seeing a dramatic change in audiences.

Packed houses of students, black people, unemployed and other groups which West End theatre often fails to reach, may force other theatres to revise their pricing policies. The West End admits it is in danger of becoming too expensive for people on lower incomes.

Figures from the Society of West End Theatre show that the average ticket price in the West End increased by 11 per cent last year to pounds 19, which is, according to the society, 'an uncomfortably high figure, given the harsh economic climate as we enter 1993'.

It is against this background that the BAC (formerly the Battersea Arts Centre) decided to have one night a week allowing audiences to pay whatever they could afford. It has not just attracted the unemployed. Celebrities such as Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and the pop singer Gilbert O'Sullivan have also turned up.

But what has been notable about Tuesday nights, which now outsell all other weekday nights in the three-theatre fringe complex, is the make-up of the audience. It disproves any theory that certain classes and age groups are not interested in theatre.

The experiment has also unintentionally produced a new method of rating shows. Some pay a couple of pounds one Tuesday and if they are tempted to see the production again pay more the next Tuesday to register their approval. With the official price for tickets pounds 7.50, this Tuesday's 'Pay What You Can' night saw sums as low as pounds 1 being paid for a performance of Josephine, a play about the Folies Bergeres star Josephine Baker. If people asked, they were advised that pounds 3.50 was a reasonable sum.

Vishni Verada, a 21-year-old student and a regular visitor on Tuesdays, said that she paid pounds 2.50 and would not go to the theatre otherwise as she could not afford it. But after one show she particularly liked, she returned the next week and paid pounds 5.

Charles Hallsworth, a self-employed builder who was there with his wife and paid pounds 3 per ticket, said: 'We would like to go to the theatre more often, but this is the only night we can afford.'

Paul Blackman, artistic director of the BAC, said: 'As the recession has set in, the queues have got longer and longer on Tuesdays. I don't see why opera and West End theatre shouldn't do it. My philosophy is that students are our future audience and we have to get them to know the venue and the work. But it has turned out that the whole Tuesday night audience is a different mixture and the rapport between actors and audience is always stronger on that night.'

Susan Whiddington, of the Society of West End Theatre, said she did not see any chance of West End producers following the BAC lead as they would fear people would always 'purchase at the low end of the market whatever they could really afford'.

(Photograph omitted)

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam