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

Should theatre go Netflix? Would subscribing as a member of your favourite theatre make it easier for you to get the most in-demand tickets? We became a member of 11 of our favourite venues and bought two group memberships to see what the value for money is.

  • Read on to find out what membership of the Almeida, ATG, Bridge Theatre, British Film Institute, Delfont Mackintosh, Donmar Warehouse, Globe Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, National Theatre, Old Vic, Other Palace, Royal Court and Young Vic gets you

** Almeida Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Highbury & Islington or Angel

COST?: membership starts at £60 a year

VALUE FOR MONEY?: ** (down 2*)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We joined early in 2015 because we wanted excellent seats at the 325-seat studio theatre for the Greeks season starring Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel. This membership loses two stars this year because the venue appears to be resting on its laurels in terms of the quality of its programme. Weren’t keen at all on The Writer,Summer And Smoke was better.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW? Robert (Hamlet) Icke’s take on Chekhov’s Wild Duck might just have saved it.

** ATG Tickets:

WHERE?: numerous venues in and out of town including Piccadilly Theatre, Savoy and Harold Pinter Theatre

COST?: membership starts at £35, although we now have the £90 Gold Card

VALUE FOR MONEY?: ** (up 1*)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: ATG is revamping this card and, as well as priority booking, the Gold Card offers 6 £15 Lounge visits which include 1 free drink each time and the opportunity to sit in luxury in a tiny exclusive bar pre-show and at the interval.

We also think our membership helped us to be offered Harry Potter tickets.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Possibly – depends how ATG revamp.

*** Bridge Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest station London Bridge

COST?: membership starts at £50 (£35 for the under 35s)

VALUE FOR MONEY?: *** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: This 900-seat home to Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company opened in October. Members get priority booking as well as invites to events at the venue. The gig theatre of Julius Caesar and debut London performance by Laura Linney in My Name Is Lucy Barton have been highlights.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: We did – and the member events continue to look a little middle-of-the-road and middle-aged. Excited for new Martin McDonagh with A Very, Very Dark Matter.

*** British Film Institute:

WHERE? nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £35 a year (we are Champions)

VALUE FOR MONEY: *** (DOWN 1*)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We joined three years ago with fairly low expectations but it comes with a recommendation for a low-value membership. This year we’ve increased our membership and been rewarded tickets to interesting Q&As for The Bridge, Westworld , Bodyguard and with Jodie Foster.

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 per cent off food and soft drink.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW? The jump to £235 for the next member level seems too steep. But there is real quality here, especially if you want to question your favourite TV stars about the choices they have made.

**** Delfont Mackintosh:

WHERE? DM has theatres across London including the Noel Coward and the Wyndhams in central London

COST?: membership is from £35

VALUE FOR MONEY: ****

WHAT DO YOU GET?: The DMT+ offer is everything ATG’s should be. Subscribers receive complimentary drinks and programme vouchers worth £18. There are also invitations to exclusive events including backstage tours and pre and post-show talks. 10 per cent discounts at bars also.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Definitely – while we appreciated the discounts, we’ve actually made most use of the early notification on ticket sales and bought great seats for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore , Company and The Height Of the Storm.

** Donmar Warehouse:

WHERE? Nearest Tube Covent Garden

COST?: membership is from £75

VALUE FOR MONEY: ** (Up 2)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: The impending departures of Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham seems to have coincided with an upturn in quality here. The York Realist and Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie have been of high quality and we’re looking forward to Measure For Measure. Michael Longhurst arrives as Artistic Director in March 2019.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: This is a membership that trades very much on the quality of its productions because there’s little else other than advance booking to see here.

*** Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

WHERE? Nearest Tube London Bridge

COST?: membership is from £50

VALUE FOR MONEY: ***

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Priority booking and 10 per cent off in the shop, on food and drink and at the neighbouring Swan Restaurant. We enjoyed Mark Rylance and Sheila Atim in Othello and this is the only way we’ve found to stand any chance of tickets for the great Shakespeare walks and Westminster Abbey events.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Yes – everyone should experience at least 1 Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey event.

*** Hampstead Theatre:

WHERE?: Nearest Tube is Swiss Cottage

COST?: membership is from £50

VALUE FOR MONEY: ***

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We’re recent joiners here and did so to see Maisie Williams from Game Of Thrones in I And You. We were spurred on by a great production of new writing starring Jade Anouka and called The Phlebotomist in the smaller downstairs venue. There’s also a 10 per cent bar discount and exclusive invitations to events (although we’ve not had any yet).

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Potentially – depending on the exclusive events invitations and the quality of future productions.

** National Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £25 a year, although we upgraded to £80 priority membership and then downgraded this year

VALUE FOR MONEY: ** (down 2*)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: £25 membership allows priority booking ahead of the public. We downgraded because, Translations aside, the quality on show at the National hasn’t been great over the last 12 months. Follies won our monsta for Best Revival (we saw it over a year ago and it returns next year). However, Cate Blanchett is due to tread the boards at the intimate Dorfman Theatre at this venue from January and now might be a good time to join if you want to see her.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: We’re thinking of upgrading early to see Cate Blanchett.

***** Old Vic:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Waterloo

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

VALUE FOR MONEY: ***** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Our best recommendation. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare our Old Vic membership with the others because we pay far more for it but it’s been absolutely brilliant this year. It enabled us to sit next to Freddie Fox (pictured above) during the venue’s 200th Bicentenary Ball in May and we’ve chatted to Artistic Director Matthew Warchus (and encouraged him to return Groundhog Day to London) amongst others at regular Backstage Notes events.

There’s priority booking but the real joy has been the chance to get a glimpse behind the productions that the venue stages and to question those involved with putting them on, especially memorable was the cast bellringing from last year’s moving A Christmas Carol. The Andrew Scott Q&A and revival of Sea Wall was hard to forget.

The staff have been super helpful and really made us feel part of the Old Vic family. We’ve been members since 2012 and now even enjoy programme name checks as well as appearing on the wall in the venue’s Penny bar.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Most definitely. Warchus found his feet with the family-friendly Groundhog Day and The Lorax and the attempts to broaden the venue’s appeal – we’ve been to late-night gig theatre plus comedy and pre-show monologues – have been hugely successful.

**** Other Palace:

WHERE? Nearest Tube Victoria

COST?: membership is from £60

VALUE FOR MONEY: ****

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Priority booking, 10 per cent off food and drink (although we were offered 25 per cent off at a brilliant recent Fra Fee gig) and, perhaps most excitingly, an invite to a post-show press party for Heathers, which we were unfortunately unable to go to. The food at the venue’s Other Naughty Piglet restaurant is especially good value and gorgeous at lunch.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Worth it for the discounts alone, especially if the invitations continue and the quality of the work produced is on a par with Heathers which transfers into the West End from 3/9.

*Royal Court

WHERE? Nearest Tube Sloane Square

COST?: membership is from £35

VALUE FOR MONEY: *

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Priority booking, 10 per cent off drinks in the venue’s beautiful downstairs bar and a share of the Monday tickets for sold-out productions.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: We joined because we think it’s important to support new writing but we’ve seen nothing much to rave about. Instructions For Correct Assembly was our favourite. We are excited about The Woods and The Cane here later this year.

*** Young Vic:

WHERE? nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £35

VALUE FOR MONEY: *** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Priority booking and regular updates. The venue appeared to have lost our membership details until we queried it when we wanted to buy priority tickets and it made amends satisfactorily. We’re very excited about the arrival of new Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and new productions including Twelfth Night and Jesus Hopped The A Train.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: It continues to have the potential to be a hipper Old Vic and the decision will depend on what is realised in the next year. The bar and restaurant are busy and the service slow.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Classic Spring. Disclaimer: monstagigz.com is independent and none of these memberships were provided free by venues
  • Enjoyed this investigation? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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