INVESTIGATION: Should you join your favourite theatre as a member? (2020 update, part one)

The Old Vic was the second winner of our Best Theatre Venue monsta last year and in part two are details of what you can expect from patron membership which for us meant sharing a rehearsal room with actors including Fleabag‘s Andrew Scott (pictured above).

  • Read on to find out what membership of the Almeida, ATG, Bridge Theatre, British Film Institute, Delfont Mackintosh, Donmar Warehouse and Globe Theatre gets you

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.

** Almeida Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest Tube Highbury & Islington or Angel

COST?: membership starts at £60 a year

VALUE FOR MONEY?: ** (no change)

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. Members receive newsletters and priority booking. We’ve reviewed six shows at this venue since our last refresh of this article in September 2018 and the pick was Robert Icke’s re-imagining of The Wild Duck. Nothing has beaten its four-and-a-half stars since October 2018.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW? Touch and go – the last five-star production we saw here was James Graham’s Ink in June 2017.

** ATG Tickets:

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

COST?: Theatre Card Classic membership starts at £35

VALUE FOR MONEY?: ** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: It’s the priority booking which is the biggest draw here and has helped us to book for Game Of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke in Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Playhouse in 2020 as well as James McAvoy at the same venue in Cyrano de Bergerac in November. We also saw Pretty Woman at the Piccadilly in 2020 and Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter in January. There’s 25 per cent off drinks in the half hour before a show.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Probably not – having the pick of the seats is only really beneficial if the productions on show are of high class. ATG has just announced it will extend membership for those affected by the coronavirus shutdown which is something.

*** Bridge Theatre:

WHERE?: nearest station London Bridge

COST?: membership starts at £15 for advance tickets (£35 for the under 35s and £50 for others for premium advanced)

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

WHAT DO YOU GET?: This 900-seat home to Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company opened in October 2017. Members get priority booking as well as invites to events at the venue. The immersive Midsummer Night’s Dream last year won our Best Theatre Revival, A Number was riveting and the Armistead Maupin Q&A was fun.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Yes – we caught The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe towards the end of its run and it was in keeping with the best of the the trend-setting material we’ve seen here as well as being hugely family friendly and appropriately Christmas-themed. Fans of His Dark Materials will doubtless be looking forward to the adaptation of later book La Belle Sauvage.

*** British Film Institute:

WHERE? nearest Tube Waterloo

COST?: membership is from £37 a year (we are Champions)

VALUE FOR MONEY: *** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: We joined five 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 the BFI/Radio Times TV Festival in April was fun with excellent Q&As for Line Of Duty, Derry Girls, Unforgotten and with rising star Josh O’Connor. BBC1’s superior His Dark Materials also premiered memorably at the BFI IMAX and the Dark Crystal Netflix reveal was fun.

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? There is real quality here, especially if you want to question your favourite TV stars about the choices they have made, but the Champion membership is not cheap.

**** 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: **** (no change)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: As a DMT+ member you will be provided with complimentary drinks and programme vouchers when you first sign up, worth up to £19. There are also exclusive events including backstage tours and pre and post-show talks, a dedicated booking line, complimentary cloakroom facilities, 10 per cent discounts at all Delfont Mackintosh bars and hospitality discounts

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 excellent Fleabag and The Night Of The Iguana. Membership is also paused as theatres are closed during the coronavirus crisis which other theatres could learn from.

**** Donmar Warehouse:

WHERE? Nearest Tube Covent Garden

COST?: membership is from £75

VALUE FOR MONEY: **** (Up 2)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: This venue won three of our 2019 monstas for Appropriate and Teenage Dick. Members gain priority access to tickets across all productions, regular email updates and a selection of member-only events.

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. Lucky then that it has been in such stellar form recently.

* Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

WHERE? Nearest Tube London Bridge

COST?: membership is from £50

VALUE FOR MONEY: * (down 2)

WHAT DO YOU GET?: Both membership and programming have been a real disappointment since our last investigation refresh. There’s so much potential at the venue but little is realised other than the hugely recommended Shakespeare walks.

Members receive priority booking, free admission to a theatre tour (although we’ve not seen details of it) and access to a Heaven and Hell backstage tour that we sadly had to cancel at short notice. There’s also a 10 per cent discount in the venue shop and Swan Restaurant.

ARE WE GOING TO RENEW?: Probably not – although everyone should experience at least 1 Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey event.

  • Part two of this feature will be published shortly and will include details from venues including the Old Vic, Hampstead Theatre, National Theatre, the Other Palace, Royal Court and Young Vic.
  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Old Vic. Disclaimer: is independent and none of these memberships were provided free by venues
  • Enjoyed this investigation? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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