Save The Theatres: Why I Don’t Mind Paying A Restoration Levy

I think that we can all remember back to 2013 when 80 people were injured when part of the Apollo Theatre’s roof collapsed during a performance of ‘The Curious Incident About A Dog In The Night Time’. It was shocking news, and whilst thankfully there were no life threatening injuries, we all knew it could have been much worse as this incident truly highlighted the sorry state that some of London’s oldest theatres have fallen into.

With the Victoria Palace, Noel Coward, Apollo Theatre and Shaftesbury theatres having gone through a restoration project in recent years, and work currently being done on The newly renamed Sondheim Theatre and on The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, you would think that progress was being made to improve the overall structure and the general appearance of West End venues but this week, we may have been proven wrong.

On Wednesday evening, a performance of Death Of A Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre was suddenly halted when part of the ceiling collapsed over the grand circle (the top floor), with a number of minor injuries reported. Audience members reported hearing a dripping sound just before the collapse, indicating that water was coming through the roof. Having seen three shows in the past at this venue, I can’t say that I noticed anything drastic but I can say that everything did appear a little bit dated and perhaps a little run down, particularly when I was seated in the Royal circle (The second floor).

*From the pictures, I can see that the Piccadilly Theatre has been covered in scaffolding recently, does anyone know what work has been going on? Could that work have caused this to happen?*

Anyone who regularly books theatre tickets will know the frustration of booking fees, the additional costs that you have to pay on top of the ticket price when booking over the phone or online, and even if you book in person sometimes. Whilst no one wants to be paying extra when they are already paying for something that can be rather pricey, for me, it doesn’t pull on the purse strings quite as much when it is advertised and then sold as a restoration levy. That way we know that the little bit extra of our hard earned money that we are letting go of is going towards the restoration and refurbishment of the theatres we know and love. In my opinion, that is much better than paying booking fees and actually having no idea as to where that money is going (if anyone does know, please let me know).

Some companies are better than others, I think, with their additional fees. Some websites (such as Encore Tickets) don’t call it a booking fee and instead charge slightly more for postage. When booking for shows in theatres owned by the Delfont Mackintosh Group (The Noel Coward, The Novello, The Sondheim etc) I always use the official Delfont Mackintosh website. Not only does this booking process charge a restoration levy instead of a booking fee, but it includes this cost in the ticket price so there are no shocks at the check out.

Even though they have got a lot better in a last few years, The Ambassadors Theatre Group have received a lot of backlash over their high booking fees, with transaction fees also sometimes added on top of them. This is the main reason why I try to avoid booking with ATG (its not worth me having the members card), but sadly not the only reason I don’t really like them as a company. You can read more about that here.

Death of a Salesman is scheduled to continue at the Piccadilly theatre from next week as work continues on the theatre. I must congratulate the front of house staff on how calmly and professionally they handled Wednesday’s incident and the whole team at getting the show back on stage so quickly. I wish them luck for the rest of the run.

All I am saying is that, as a regular theatre goer who buys a lot of tickets, I would happily pay a restoration levy much more often if it meant that the much needed work could be done on the theatres that need it most. I would much rather do that then pay a booking fee any day. If it means that we can save our favourite theatres from crumbling, it’s got to be worth it, right?

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