Is Theatre Inclusive?

With top end ticket prices on the West End having risen by 19% to an average of £117.52, is theatre becoming less accessible and more elitist?

Is Theatre Inclusive?

The most typical and somewhat ‘expected’ route into theatre nowadays is by completing degree level training at a drama school, or institution of vocational training. But are these institutions pushing away working class families and providing training purely for those with more disposable income? With audition prices alone costing an average of £50 per school, on top of travel, accommodation, food and equipment, the cost to get into drama school can be a huge financial strain to the average household.

Theatre can be a means of uniting like minded people, inspiring the community and telling important stories. Not only that, theatre is a wonderful way for those with extra needs or learning difficulties to express themselves, have fun and engage with their community. With funding cuts, the rise of ticket prices and the momentous cost of auditions - is theatre really inclusive anymore? It’s starting to feel as though the focus is more about money than the art itself. To restore our faith in the arts community, I thought it important to celebrate the theatres and establishments that are doing their best to make theatre accessible.

It’s no surprise that Leeds Playhouse (formerly West Yorkshire Playhouse) has to be mentioned. The Playhouse is known for being the first ever theatre of sanctuary, ‘a place of safety, hospitality and support for refugees and asylum seekers’. The Playhouse advocates for accessible performances by providing captioned performances, British Sign Language interpreted performances and are currently trailing the National Theatre Smart Captioned glasses that caption the performance through a special technology placed in the lenses of glasses. I recently had the opportunity to try these out, an incredible piece of forward thinking technology! Leeds Playhouse also provide Dementia friendly performances, relaxed performances for young people or those with learning difficulties, student discounted tickets and affordable prices. Leeds Playhouse is becoming a leader for accessibility in theatre.

Manchester’s The Arden School of Theatre and Liverpool Theatre School recently scrapped audition fees in an effort to encourage young people from all backgrounds, particularly those of a working class, to have the opportunity to audition and pursue a career in the arts. Similarly, this year top drama schools Italia Conti, Drama Studio London and ALRA came together to hold a joint audition in Newcastle and Doncaster for just £30, instead of what probably would’ve been around £150.

“We are determined to make it as easy as possible for young people to have the opportunity to train at a leading performing arts conservatoire and follow in the steps of our famous alumni.” - MT Programmes Director of Italia Conti, Richard Mulholland

In Sheffield, Crucible Theatre provides South Yorkshire students studying Performing Arts or English at GCSE level or above with the opportunity to receive a free ticket and a second ticket priced at just £5 with an IGNITE card.

The Donmar Warehouse runs a YOUNG+FREE programme that gives young people under 25 free tickets, all you have to do is simply sign up and bring some valid ID to the performance! By providing such excellent services like this, young people are encouraged to experience the arts and we are inspiring future artists.

The in-house education charity at the Theatre Royal Haymarket: Masterclass, aim to ‘advance the education of young people aged 16-30 by promoting the study of drama and in particular the art and craft of theatre’. Not only do they provide workshops, talks with leading industry professionals and career advice sessions but they offer paid apprenticeships.

It’s time for leaders in the arts sector to step up and allow inclusivity, provide more opportunities for people of all backgrounds (particularly young people!) scrap audition fees and move forward towards a future of accessibility. By providing opportunities and inspiring young people now, the future can only be brighter, more creative and full of art.

Header Image Credit: Mariinsky, aquarium view with fisheye


Lucy Dyson

Lucy Dyson Contributor

Lucy is a 19 year old freelance dancer, teacher and choreographer based in Yorkshire. Expect industry specific advice and news, artist interviews and theatre reviews.

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