Glasgow's Citizens Theatre on Affordable Theatre For All
Affordable ticketing is always a hot topic. While some producers claim they're making an effort to make their prices more accessible, this often results in the 'affordable seats' being restricted view or unsuitable for anyone over 5'2". I recently paid £30 for a ticket to Les Miserables in the West End where the feeling had completely left my leg by "Master Of The House" due to restricted legroom.
On Friday night I went to see Bold Girls at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. As it was a preview performance, the ticket cost just £10 for a stalls seat and I was given a free programme (with a suggested donation of £1). Bold Girls is easily one of the best productions I have seen in a long time and I was completely blown away by it.
The Citizens Theatre is committed to ensuring that everybody can see world-class theatre like this. While some theatres may offer a pound or two off for pensioners, I have never encountered a concession range as wide as at this theatre.
Starting at just 50p, the Citz offer a range of discounts for people who live locally; are unemployed; elderly; disabled (plus free carer ticket); students; children; group discounts; and discounts for Equity, Scottish Society of Playwrights, Bectu & Musicians Union card-holders.
We had a chat with Keren Nicol, Head Of Marketing at the venue, about the pricing bands at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre and why it's so important.
How long has the Citizens Theatre been committed to affordable theatre for all?
Our commitment to being accessible to as many people as possible goes right back to the founding of the company in 1943 by the playwright James Bridie.
He took the name from a manifesto written in 1909 for the Glasgow Repertory Theatre: "The Repertory Theatre is Glasgow's own theatre. It is a citizens' theatre in the fullest sense of the term. Established to make Glasgow independent from London for its dramatic supplies, it produces plays which the Glasgow playgoers would otherwise not have the opportunity of seeing."
Amongst the founding principles of his new company were accessible ticket prices, free previews and free programmes for all audience members.
Today, we still offer free programmes and we've got the widest range of concessions in the city, starting from £2 for people who are unemployed, and for those that live in our local area. Our top ticket price this season is £23, with all seats on Tuesdays available to everyone for £12.50.
We honour the tradition of 50p tickets by making available 100 tickets at this bargain price available the Saturday morning before opening night for all of our own productions. They're only available in person at the box office, and our queue will normally start forming outside the doors at least two hours before we open for those wanting to make sure they're at the front of the queue.
Why do you think it is so important to have such a wide range of price options?
One of my favourite things about our Gorbals Card offer is that it's for everyone that lives in our neighbourhood. It's available to everyone with a G5 postcode, and we have people from all sorts of backgrounds using their cards to enjoy theatre with us. It's a way for all members of our community to enjoy the world-class theatre that's on their doorstep together.
We work hard to make sure that the work that we present on stage is accessible to as many possible. Our productions are very down to earth and rooted in a very contemporary world, even when performing very old works, such as our recent production of Ancient Greek tragedy The Oresteia. Our pricing policies absolutely work hand in hand with our artistic goals - we want to present high-quality work that everyone can access.
We've also got an incredibly active learning team, who work with an enormous number of people. It's wonderful when those people are inspired to come and see an event here for themselves, and it's important that there are ticket options available to make that easier.
Do you find that it opens up the theatre to people who wouldn't normally go to see a production?
Twice a year, we'll make all the productions coming up in the next six months available for sale at the one time. You'll definitely see our Gorbals Card holders in particular buying tickets for everything.
We've got a fairly diverse programme here, from contemporary Scottish comedies and musicals like Glasgow Girls and The Choir, to large-scale productions of classic texts and more experimental work in our Circle Studio space, so it's great to see people taking advantage of the accessible pricing to try out something they might not otherwise have taken a chance on.
Our 50p ticket queue is a real mixed bag: we've definitely got habitual queuers, for whom spending their Saturday morning with other theatregoers is real social occasion. You'll also find lots of students and people on their way in to town for some shopping who decide to stop off for a ticket on their way.
What is the background of the 50p ticket offer and why bring it back?
The 50p tickets honour a particularly important period in the company's history, when it was led by Phillip Prowse, Robert David Macdonald and Giles Havergal from 1969 to 2003, and when it gained its international reputation. This 'triumvirate' of leaders introduced a 50p ticket prices for all seats in 1976 (25p for students), with free tickets for senior citizens and the unemployed introduced in 1979.
It was the idea of our Artistic Director Dominic Hill to relaunch the ticket price when he took up his post in October 2011. We sold our first 50p ticket for a production of Pinter's Betrayal with Cal Macaninch and Neve McIntosh in February 2012. Since then we've sold 3,500 tickets at 50p.
Under Dominic's leadership over the past six years, the Citizens Theatre has become known again for presenting accessible interpretations of classic texts alongside work by, for and about the people of Glasgow. The 50p tickets are an important part of this ethos.
Plus, it makes a great photo to have 100 people or more queuing for theatre tickets on a Saturday morning!
Tickets and production information for the Citizens Theatre are available on the venue website.
Do you think other theatres should be making more effort to make theatre affordable? Tweet us @BroadwayWorldUK or let us know on our discussion boards!
Photo credit: Citizens Theatre