When the new Government Restrictions were announced last week for Tiers 1, 2 and 3 across England, a spanner was thrown in the works for some West End shows, who had been doing all they could to reopen at a limited capacity this Christmas.
With new limitations specifying that indoor performances can have a maximum of 1,000 audience members (or 50% capacity), this is different to previous guidelines which just said people had to be seated ensuring social distancing measures were adhered to.
This has caused some upcoming West End productions to have to cancel a certain number of pre-booked tickets, to fit within the guidelines.
Shows like ‘Pantoland at the Palladium‘ have had to cancel some ticket buyers bookings saying:
“As I am sure you are aware, the Government’s new Covid-19 Winter Plan has placed a maximum capacity of 1,000 guests on indoor entertainment venues. This update to the previous guidance around social distancing within theatres will, unfortunately, impact performances of Pantoland at The Palladium, starting Saturday 12 December.
Also, Les Miserables – The Staged Concert have had to do the same, announcing:
“To meet the new Government requirements, we are left with no choice but to reduce the size of the audience for each performance. I am very sorry to say that this means your seats will no longer be available and, unfortunately, we have had to cancel and refund your booking.”
Is it unknown ‘officially’ how producers have decided which bookings to cancel (I have reached out for clarification and will update if I hear back) but as one Twitter user pointed out “probably they’ll cancel the cheaper tickets + leave the pricier ones”.
This seems to be the case with many others on Facebook saying things like:
“Seems to me that they’re cancelling the cheaper seats. Not exactly encouraging to those on lower incomes. I thought theatres were trying to encourage more people to use the theatres.”
“I always buy the restricted view £21 seats in the upper circle..i bought the same seats for this concert version and now they want me to exchange to seats that are 3x the price per person.”
“Les Mis tickets cancelled! Discrimination against people who could only afford Grand Circle/cheaper tickets!!”
Looking at the seating charts for these shows online, it does indeed appear that the Upper Circle areas have been taken off of sale.
Many people are complaining that they feel priced out of going to the theatre now because they purchased the only tickets they could afford and are now being told to rebook their seats (costing up to four times more than what they originally paid).
The Government Restrictions don’t mention having to social distance audience members any more than they did before – they just need to allow less people in to see the show and so it would make ‘business’ sense to cancel the cheapest bookings in order to still make as much money as possible (which will still probably be a loss).
It’s totally understandable, but not really helping with the concept of making theatre accessible to all. Perhaps just the rich get to go to the theatre this Christmas.
Photo: Matt Crockett