2022: A Year In Review of Post Pandemic Theatre

It’s hard to believe, yet 2022 was the first full year of post pandemic theatre. So much has changed, some more obvious than others.

For some, it’s been full steam ahead back to normal, for others, theatregoing has become less. In this blog, I’ll talk about my first full year back.

The stage reports in October 2022 that ‘About a fifth of audiences have not returned to the theatre since venues closed in March 2020’. The most worrying age band was 18-25 year olds. An already under represented age group in audiences.

While, I have visited many productions this year, the count of productions is far less than pre-pandemic. Why is that? I’ll try and untangle the biggest factors.

Ticket Prices

Ticket prices were always a barrier before covid, but instead of deterring audiences and acting as a barrier to get a diverse audience in, it’s now having an additional impact on regular visitors. Cheap tickets are becoming harder to access or hidden behind lotteries.

While I’ve found some great on the day tickets, if you have a plan to see a certain production, advance ticket prices are becoming harder to afford.

It’s no exaggeration to say on average, you’re going to be spending £40 on a theatre ticket in 2022 at best if you’re booking in advance. The society of London Theatre suggests the average price is even higher – £54.38

To see a show a week, that’s £160 without travel. While there’s no doubt some people may have that level disposable income, I couldn’t.

The cost of living is starting to bite, and while it’s certainly not getting cheaper to produce theatre, I’d hope profit margins made by large producers and production companies take a hit before hiking prices.

Big Ticket, Must See Shows

In addition to the rise in prices, there’s also been a rise of the must see show. Whether it be Cock, whether it be Cabaret there’s sometimes a fear of missing out on the next big thing. But those productions come at a price, often much larger than the average ticket price for all productions. Using money on those shows, means less unfortunate for others.

A move towards last minute booking

With strikes regularly affecting travel or a lingering fear of being struck by sickness, it may come as no surprise that theatre bookers are becoming increasingly more last minute. With more and more venues using surge pricing where last minute seats are more expensive, you could easily find that the production you penned in your diary is now double the price. I’ll often have an idea of what show to see on any given day, but if on that day I see all tickets have increased to £60 a ticket, then its easy to find the motivation to stay at home.

Why won’t I book in advance? The only way to protect yourself as a theatregoer booking in advance is my paying for additional insurance on a theatre ticket. As I touched on earlier, tickets, particularly advanced ones, are expensive, add on top of that another £2.50 for a ticket charge and your £30 tickets is just under 10% more expensive.

The insurance leavy is hidden ticket fee that must end. Instead, replaced with goodwill and generosity that I know venues can display.

Audiences remained incredibly loyal to organisations during lockdown, given them critical access to cash flow. That fairness should worm both ways.

Unexpected Disruption

Particularly as a person who uses public transport, whether it’s last-minute train cancellations and timetable changes or strike action it’s a challenge to plan things when you have the motivation and drive to do so.

What Next?

As for what happens next, only time will tell. But I know for one, I’m concerned about whether I really can afford to get back to the theatre as much as I once did and whether it really is sustainable to do that.

I’m concerned that no-one else is talking about access to the arts and that with more and more being focused on a small number of high budget shows, who gets left behind.

I’m concerned that super high prices are being glossed over as if its nothing to panic over or that its OK for access to the arts to be restricted.

But if nothing more, I hope this lengthy blog shows you’re not alone with seeing less theatre than you did before the pandemic. Whether it’s the effort of travelling, the ups and downs of last minute tickets, affordability or something totally different , you’re not alone.

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