Something for everyone!
Our Annual Report 2013
It was a year of challenging new plays, startling revivals, ballets, operas, big, brash musicals and small scale chamber pieces. It was a year when a roof fell in, and it ended with an old-fashioned spat between two leading actresses.
It was a year that broke new boundaries in the use of four-letter words, with controversial shows like The Book of Mormon, The Same Deep Water As Me and Barking in Essex.
And it was the year that West End prices topped £150 for a Premium ticket to see those Mormons, and yes, there are audiences willing to pay those prices, for the show has been a sold-out success since it opened. By booking early we obtained top price tickets for only £49! Every commercial theatre now offers Premium seats (not to be confused with Top Price seats on which we get a group discount), and even the tiny Menier now has Premium seats, but at only £35!
We managed to keep our average ticket price as low as £39.40 (this doesn't include coach-fare) even taking into account the few shows for which there was no group reduction (unfortunately, an increasing trend). Our highest West End ticket price was £59 for Helen Mirren in The Audience (which equalled our top Covent Garden price) and the lowest was £18 for Maureen Lipman in Daytona, far from the West End in Finsbury Park. Our aim is always to offer a wide range of entertainment in good seats at affordable prices, and in 2013 you could choose from our offerings of 25 revivals, 16 new plays, 11 musicals, 6 ballets and 3 operas.
Any year that gives us 6 Shakespeare, 2 Ibsen, a Pinter, a Sondheim, a Eugene O'Neill, an Alan Bennett and two new plays featuring the Queen is exciting. In an interesting innovation, two outstanding directors, Michael Grandage and Jamie Lloyd both brought seasons to the West End which included Peter and Alice, Privates on Parade, and The Cripple of Inishmaan (from Grandage), The Hothouse and The Pride (from Lloyd) - all look set to become classics. However, it is a matter of eternal self-reproach that we didn't offer you The Pride, easily one of the best plays of the year.
The Donmar's production of Julius Caesar and the Globe's Twelfe Night both employed single-sex casting to very different effect, and both went on to enjoy further success in New York. Josie Rourke's own production of Conor McPherson's The Weir was impeccable, but while it was a brave decision to programme two new plays, and consecutively (The Night Alive and The Same Deep Water As Me), at the Donmar, this may not have been the best decision that Josie took this year. But the Donmar did give us an impressive revival of Roots at long last!
The hottest dramatist of the year proved to be Ibsen. The acclaim given to revivals of A Doll's House and Ghosts was deserved, and showed that these plays (with the right director) are as radical and inflammatory as they were when the ink was fresh on the page.
Having ventured as far off the West End as Hampstead Theatre in 2012, we were encouraged to return to that welcoming venue, and to explore other smaller and newer theatres. Our first visit to the brand new Park Theatre was a great success: in Daytona the always amazing Maureen Lipman showed that she can blow the doors off such an intimate space - and when our post-show chat turned into The Maureen Lipman Show, no-one minded.
Our first visits to the St James, the Tricycle and the Trafalgar Studio 2 all confirmed our experience of the Donmar and the Almeida: major performers are always thrilling to see, but in a small auditorium they are dazzling. Olivia Williams and Mark Bazeley gave blistering performances in Scenes from a Marriage, Marion Bailey shone in Handbagged and June Watson and Michael Begley achieved perfection in Martyn Hesford's flawless Mrs Lowry and Son.
Of the big musicals, only Jamie Lloyd's The Commitments stood out. Others were left in the shade by the Menier's heart-breaking small-scale Merrily We Roll Along and the Young Vic's inventive production of the shocking tale of The Scottsboro Boys. And we enjoyed these for considerably less than £150!
Some productions seemed to target the much-needed younger audiences. The National and the Donmar both made a point in their marketing of aiming to reach a new audience; meanwhile, the casting in plays allowed some younger actors to show their mettle. Certainly Ben Whishaw (Peter and Alice, Mojo) Hattie Morahan (A Doll's House), Daniel Mays (Trelawney of the Wells, The Same Deep Water As Me and Mojo), Jessica Raine (Roots), John Heffernan (Edward ll) and Daniel Radcliffe (Cripple) vaulted out of the “promising” category with the greatest of ease, and we'll look forward to seeing them again - along with Susannah Fielding (Trelawny, A Midsummer Night's Dream), Al Weaver (The Pride), Amy Morgan (Trelawny), Harry Melling (The Hot House), Brian Gleeson (The Night Alive) and Kyle Soller (Edward ll).
And what more can be said about Helen Mirren in The Audience, Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear in Othello, Judi Dench in Peter and Alice, Simon Russell Beale in The Hot House, Lesley Manville in Ghosts and Jude Law in Henry V? We could only gape in wonder, and reward them with applause. Or even a standing ovation for that Donnelly fella who sensationally raised the roof at The Commitments.
The play that got the most emotional response was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and it was sad that this play's deserved success was interrupted by part of the ceiling at the Apollo Theatre collapsing in December. This was not the play nor the theatre which I would have chosen for this to happen (and there are several candidates!) and we hope that the play finds a new home and continues to engage audiences.
Last year we added an extra page to our website so we could tell you about the theatre visits we make OnOurOwn, without the Group. Occasionally we are invited to a preview or we choose to see something we think would not appeal to the Group. Sometimes we are so enthusiastic that we think we should subsequently make a group booking. This is what happened with Twelve Angry Men, and our tickets quickly sold for that one. I have already mentioned that we wish we had taken the Group to see The Pride, but there are some plays such as Chimerica or Disgraced, or the talented Cush Jumbo in her one-woman show Josephine & I, which we would love to offer to the Group, but they may have short runs or are in small theatres with unreserved seats where a Group visit would be impossible. And there are special cases like American Psycho and Mojo which are so popular that we have difficulty even buying tickets for ourselves. However, we know a few of you make theatre visits on your own too, so keep an eye out for what we see and our recommendation (or otherwise) might help you to choose.
Of course, our efforts to keep our customers satisfied wouldn't have worked without our helpful friends at Delfont Mackintosh, Ambassadors Theatre Group, SEE Tickets, and Nimax Theatres, Chris at the Donmar, Sophie at the Royal Opera House, and the team at Hampstead Theatre. Our thanks to them are well deserved.
We've also appreciated the co-operation of Mr Cook and his coach drivers, who've delivered us safely to the theatres - and home again. Many thanks to all of them.
And as always Mike and I are very grateful to all our customers for their support, and for sharing their enjoyment with us.
We promise further treats in 2014! Already our tickets for obvious hits like Coriolanus, Red Velvet, Twelve Angry Men, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Miss Saigon are sold out. But other shows are waiting in the wings to delight us when tickets go on sale later. We hope to offer you more shows at the smaller, cheaper theatres plus the big West End theatres too - Angela Lansbury and Charles Edwards in Blithe Spirit, perhaps Tim Piggot Smith in Stroke of Luck, The Pyjama Game (the hit musical from Chichester), a rare revival of A Taste of Honey, we hope Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, and many more.
Of course this depends on sufficient ticket availability for a group booking, and importantly on producers offering reasonable prices and good group discounts, to ensure regular theatre-goers like all of us can still afford to go to the theatre...regularly.
If you are still game, we are too!
Fredo and Mike
NOW HAVE A GO AT OUR 2013 CHRISTMAS QUIZ - Click HERE