Playwright Richard Bean attacks 'legal ticket touts'

Richard Bean Two Guvnors is now in its second West End run. It opens on Broadway in April.

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Playwright Richard Bean claims "legal ticket touting" is driving popular audiences away from West End theatre.

Bean, whose comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, said ticket agencies were often doubling the price.

"One of the reasons why people whinge about West End ticket prices is they're not paying the true price."

"It's ticket touting, but it's legal," said Bean, who was speaking at the Heart of the West End conference.

"They're often buying from a ticketing agency where the price might have be doubled and there are commissions on top," the award-winning playwright told a panel of industry professionals.

"All the way through the first run of One Man, Two Guvnors - even at the National [Theatre] - we had a war against ticket touts. We had a returns queue, and people were sending agents to queue - they would pick up their tickets and they'd sell two £30 tickets for £100 each to American tourists."

Accessible pricing

One Man, Two Guvnors, Bean's take on Carlo Goldoni's 1746 comedy The Servant of Two Masters, has been a runaway success since it first opened at the National Theatre in May 2011.

Bean said he had hoped to keep the prices accessible when the show - which originally starred comedian James Corden - transferred to the West End.

"With One Man, Two Guvnors, in conception it was going to be popular theatre, accessible theatre - you don't need a university degree to understand this low-brow comedy.

"We want people to go and see it - you've seen James Corden on the telly, you may never have been to a theatre before, but we're going to try to give you an enjoyable evening."

"Then it sells out, then all the ticket prices go up because of the legal ticket touting."

"The truth is the creatives who would normally get a cut are not getting any of that inflated price and the money is not going back into theatre," added Bean.

West End audiences by age

West End audiences by age (courtesy Society of London Theatre)

Source: Society of London Theatre / Ipsos MORI

His comments were backed up the Society of London's Julian Bird: "Whether you call it ticket touting or inflated prices, it's the single biggest issue not just for us, but for the music industry, sport, everything that sells a ticket."

Earlier this month, Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey called West End producers "short-sighted", and said that London theatres were in danger of becoming an "exclusive club".

The actor said he was "embarrassed" that the average £50 cost of a ticket for a West End show was driving young people away.

"If we don't reach out to make theatre affordable to the young generations we will lose them all," he added.

"It is so short sighted not to think about your future audiences."

Ticket prices are set by producers and directors rather than theatre owners.

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