INVESTIGATION: Should you join your favourite theatre as a member?

Would becoming a member of your favourite theatre make it easier for you to get the most in-demand tickets? We became a member of five of our favourite London venues to see what the value for money is.

  • Read on to find out what membership of the Almeida, British Film Institute, Menier Chocolate Factory, National Theatre and Old Vic gets you.

Almeida Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Highbury & Islington or Angel

COST?: membership starts at £50 a year

VALUE FOR MONEY?: ***

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We joined early in 2015 because we were enthused by the Greeks season at the 325-seat studio theatre and our £50 membership enabled us to get excellent seats a week ahead of public sale for each of the three productions including Ben Whishaw in Bakkhai. The inadequate website is always a struggle when tickets go on sale though.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW? We did renew with reservations thanks to the promise of Ralph Fiennes/Vanessa Redgrave in Richard III and, although we’ve yet to make an evening member event (partly because there are rarely clues about who will appear), we’re looking forward to the booking privileges today ahead of Andrew Scott in Hamlet and Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams in Mary Stuart.

British Film Institute:

WHERE? nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £35 a year

VALUE FOR MONEY: *****

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We joined two years ago with fairly low expectations but it comes with our highest recommendation. In the last year we’ve been to Q&As (often with film screenings) with stars including Sir John Hurt, Sir Ian McKellen and Russell Tovey to name but a few. There’s priority booking and the opportunity to watch new and classic films with an audience which often bursts into spontaneous applause at the end of a screening. The back bar is also one of London’s best kept secrets. Members receive 10% off food and soft drink.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW? Hugely recommended and remains the membership to beat.

Menier Chocolate Factory:

WHERE?: nearest Tube London Bridge

COST?: membership is from £45 a year, although we chose the £75 package

VALUE FOR MONEY: **

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We chose this package because we wanted to see Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl and achieved our aim despite the entire three-month run selling out in hours at the 180-seater theatre. There are priority bookings, meal deals at the excellent venue restaurant and cast Q&As. We ended up seeing the show three times and attending a memorable Q&A with the cast.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: We didn’t rejoin because the upcoming productions promised nothing as stellar as Funny Girl.

National Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £15 a year

VALUE FOR MONEY: ***

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We were quite scathing about the National last year but the last nine months have been a much happier one for the venue in terms of the quality of its productions. This membership enables priority booking and we’ve had excellent seats for fine productions including the unforgettable three plays in one day Young Chekhov, The Threepenny Opera and The Deep Blue Sea. We’re very much looking forward to Nathan Lane/RussellTovey/Denise Gough in Angels In America next year. Occasional Q&As are offered and we saw Simon Russell Beale despite a mix up over our seating. The quarterly magazines are of good quality.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: We actually upgraded our membership for the second year – with reservations.

Old Vic:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £35 a year, although we’re currently a £65 premium friend

VALUE FOR MONEY: ***

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We upgraded to a premium friend because we wanted the opportunity to buy tickets for the star-studded gala (featuring Annie Lennox among many others) to say goodbye to artistic director Kevin Spacey and it was one of the highlights of our 2015. Priority booking is also enabled but this is a venue where we have not found it difficult to get tickets, especially more recently. We’re still a premium friend because the quality under Matthew Warchus has improved. Have been to an interesting post-show Q&A with Bertie Carvel and a slightly awkward drinks reception in a rehearsal room with a cast member dressed as an ape. Shame about the death of the Pit Bar.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Quite probably. Warchus has found his feet with the family-friendly Groundhog Day and The Lorax.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Funny Girl UK. Note this is an updated version of an article from December 2015 also available on this website.
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