Hamlet for free at the Almeida

It’s no secret Shambles Theatre are a skint theatre company.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who works in the arts; we graduated in 2016 and the deafening reality of trying to create art in London is inescapable. We work multiple jobs, raid the reduced section, and save our pennies to support our fellow theatre makers shows. This means unfortunately much of the big budget theatre shows are simply out of our reach, when restricted view seats start at nearly £40 it’s a luxury we can’t always afford.

So, when we heard about The Almeda Theatres Hamlet for free we were stunned and oh so excited. We were unable to secure tickets when they went on sale, so with hope in our hearts we set off on the last day to que for returns.

We arrived at the theatre at about 5.15. There was already around 30 people waiting for the returns que to open at 6pm. By the time we lined up there was a crowd of about 60, all young, eager, and excited to have the chance to see not only a west end show for free, but one staring a highly regarded and talented lead; Andrew Scott. Star power never fails to push prices up. We paid through the nose to see Bradley Cooper in the Elephant Man; it was amazing and worth every saved penny… but it still pained us to pay so much!

Hamlet was incredible, and we feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to see it for absolutely free.

Andrew Scott addressed this in a Q & A at the Almdia, saying he wants to change the cost of theatre tickets. The West End transfer at the Harold Pinter will have 300 seats at each performance that cost less than £30. That’s a good start.

High ticket prices makes theatre so inaccessible it’s no wonder the working-class actor is disappearing; a career in the arts simply isn’t not an option. I was laughed out of the careers office at 15 when I said I wanted to be an actor… and this isn’t an isolated event. Drama school auditions cost upwards of £50 each. Fee’s start around £9,000 a year, that’s not including international students who pay more for the same course.

I know what you’re thinking; Lynne you WENT to drama school it can’t be that hard.

I absolutely beg to differ.

I shudder to think how much I spent auditioning for drama schools over the course of 4 years up and down the county. Student loans, bursaries, and the fact my parents (who postponed their retirements so they could support me) would sub me when necessary meant I could live my dream. Other working class actors aren’t so lucky. We both joke we are a supportive family away from being homeless, but it’s the truth. Without the help for rental fees, deposits, books, travel and endless shoulders to cry on neither of us would be where we are today.

This brings us to today, a young theatre company trying our best to secure funding, gain momentum and support for our work all for free. Working for free is a phenonminan in the arts that is unparalled. You wouldn’t expect a plumber to work for exposure, why would you assume an actor would? With what little funding we do have we make a point of paying our actors. This builds positive relationships with our amazing creative collaborators, and we hope a positive reputation in the industry. 

Arts funding is always the first to be slashed, and we really believe in the turbulent time artist expression is more important than ever. I could talk for days about this, but typically I have to go work one of my other jobs, so I’ll leave it here.

Did anyone else see Hamlet for free?

What’s your opinion on funding/ticket prices?

I will explore the decline working class actors in another post, so would love to know your opinions.

I’m off to pull pints!

Lynne xx