The issue of accessibility has always been at the centre of the Cursed Child debate. Those involved with the play have repeatedly stated that they aim for the show to be as accessible as possible; for a fandom where the overwhelming majority have yet to see it live, such claims have been met with skepticism.
By default, it was always impossible for Cursed Child to meet the standards of accessibility required for the ‘eighth story’. The only way to access the complete experience of Cursed Child is through being sat down on a seat inside of the theatre: it cannot be replicated through reading the script and even a possible live-taping of the show won’t be an equal experience.
I won’t deny that it is an undeniably unfair situation for the majority of fans and I will never not feel fortunate and lucky for being able to access this play. That being said, it would have been unfair to claim that Cursed Child was a unique case in terms of theatre and accessibility.
With tickets currently ranging from £15-£70 per part (the equivalent of one theatrical show), these prices are in line with other successful West End productions. Following the preview period, the upcoming Hamilton transfer is priced from £37.50 to £89.50. Wicked ranges from £20-£70. The Book of Mormon ranges from £25-£90.
While I would never claim that Cursed Child is as accessible or as affordable as a Harry Potter novel or movie, it would be unfair to accuse those involved with the show of exploiting fans. I am not a theatre or West End guru (Cursed Child is the only play that I’ve seen or bought tickets for) and I do not know the economics of financing West End shows; but I am an ordinary consumer and, as one, I don’t believe that Cursed Child has been unfair in their prices or uniquely expensive in comparison to other shows.
What has been unfair, however, is the swept-under-the-rug introduction of ‘Premium Tickets’.
Starting from around last October, the official site began to sell tickets for upcoming shows at a ‘premium’ price. These tickets were added randomly for dates in the upcoming week at £199 for two parts (£99.50 per part). At the beginning, they were restricted to the front row, centre seats within the Stalls and Dress Circle — the best seats in the theatre.
Having sat on one of those seats in September, I can vouch for how amazing the view is. It is also unfair to say that the producers are uniquely ripping fans off: Wicked and The Book of Mormon both sell ‘premium’ seats (at higher prices, too).
But for a show hailed as the ‘eighth story’ of such a popular, universal, and largely accessible book series, is this really fair or right? Is it even necessary to fund the production? If it had been, why weren’t these prices introduced at the start?
As the months went on, fans noticed that the ‘premium’ seats began to gradually get less premium. You can often catch them being sold for Row J or even P. I’ve sat in Row P and while I couldn’t fault the view, it does not deserve the the title of ‘premium’.
To make matters worse, last month the site increased premium tickets to £250 for both parts (£125 per part). Several fans saw them being attached to seats that weren’t at the front and offered a side view of the stage. This is unjustifiable.
Amid outrage on Twitter by fans, prices have fluctuated between £199 and £250 during the past month. As of this week, both the £199 and the £250 premium tickets are being sold. It appears that the £250 tickets are for the closer rows and the £199 for those further back: there is now, I have seen today, a £51 difference between Stalls and Dress Circle Rows D and G.
Though the show have never confirmed nor said where these tickets come from, it would be a strong guess to say that they are returned tickets being resold at a higher price. This is is my biggest issue with these tickets.
Returned tickets are, existing and increasing prices aside, a great way to obtain tickets to the show. Through lining up on the day or checking the website frequently, you are likely to be able to get yourself tickets. This (prices aside again) has allowed for the play to be more accessible: it is often hard to judge your ability to see the play a year in advance during the official ticket sales. Official resale tickets allow for fans to see the play around their own, changing circumstances.
While you can still find Band A or below tickets for great seats, it’s now undoubtedly more difficult. Resale tickets are, for many, the only way that they have been able to see the show. ‘Premium’ prices only restrict their chances.
Within the context of West End prices, I understand why the administrative team behind the play use the word ‘accessible’. They aren’t exploitative prices and you definitely get your money’s worth. But, sadly, with these premium tickets, I cannot help but wonder how truly committed they are to the standards of ‘accessibility’ that they wish to achieve.