Should All Theatre Be ‘Pay What You Decide’?

As a theatre practitioner it’s important to see as much work as possible.

However, with so much interesting work out there, it’s hard to choose what to carve time out of busy work and social schedules. With pieces ranging in topics, prices and locations, it’s really exciting when a piece gives you more than what you expect and challenges the way you think.

Last month we went to watch Misty by Arinze Kene at The Bush Theatre in London. Arinze has written a compelling piece of performance art that raises questions about the ownership of storytelling and lets his voice resonate with an exciting and poetic piece that made me laugh, want to cry, get angry all at the same time it literally got inside my head. The questions that were bought up now are so relevant and its refreshing to see a piece of theatre that embodies this. One of my close friends (and fellow Director) said: “It was exquisite storytelling from every angle. It’s the type of theatre that I love and it made me realise, that type of theatre (the stuff I most enjoy) is usually small studio space stuff squeezed into one hour slots so I was genuinely happily surprised to see it was given the luxury of an interval and a second half. Arinze’s writing and performance style is so self aware, he somehow manages to merge critical thinking with honest and genuine human experiences and presented them in a style that was spoken word/ rap open mic night meets European theatre festival. He is a genius and an artist and I paid TEN POUND to watch it because The Bush is the best possible venue that could host such an experience. “

After speaking we agreed that we loved this piece of theatre but something else stood out – the ticket price. The Bush had special offers on reduced costings, and with a reduced ticket cost happening now at various venues.

It makes me think if theatre is actually becoming more financially accessible or not?

Recently I was lucky enough to hear Alan Lane, the Artistic Director of Slung Low, speak at a workshop. Alan spoke about making theatre accessible, and how Slung Low aim to do just that. If you don’t know about Slung Low CHECK THEM OUT – the work they create is nothing short of amazing, but more importantly they are a company that really embody their values and live it and breathe it whilst they are creating and sharing work. I’ll let them explain it in their own words: “Slung Low’s aim is to make unlikely, ambitious and original adventures for audiences, each with powerful, moving story at its heart. Shows that re-examine how audiences go and see a piece of theatre. Our ambition has always been to transport our audience to new places and to make them see familiar places from new perspectives. We also understand that in these times committing to see a piece of theatre isn’t the easiest of choices, so we will always welcome you as warmly as we can, the kettle will always be on, and because everyone has different circumstances as many of our shows as possible will be “pay what you decide”- you give the amount of money you think is right after you see the show.”

I think it’s so powerful to put ownership back to audiences with the concept and practical application of pay what you decide.

It seems to be a step to making theatre truly accessible as audiences can hold theatre itself into account. What do you think? Should all theatre be pay what you decide?

Written by Jay Crutchley, Creative Practitioner at Free Radical.

For more information about Free Radical visit


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