A new government-funded scheme will offer free tickets to young adults for shows at up to 95 publicly-funded theatres, it has been announced.

Eighteen- to 26-year-olds will be able to take advantage of free tickets - available on a first-come, first-served basis - from 2009 until 2011.

Cut-price visions to esteemed theatres such as London's National and the Birmingham Rep will be on offer as part of the scheme, which follows a government report which recommended increasing young people's access to the arts.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the free theatre scheme had been developed with the theatres involved as part of a "a long-term and sustainable opportunity to engage young people and build a new audience over a period of time".

"Arts and culture have the ability to enhance and change people's lives," a spokeswoman explained.

"Government is committed to increasing access to the arts for everyone.

"Free theatre follows on from free access to museums and, more recently, free swimming."

The move follows the opening of Kenneth Branagh's warmly-received Ivanov, part of the Donmar Warehouse's year-long residency at the Wyndham's theatre, which offers low-priced tickets for all performances.

In July this year, Doctor Who actress Catherine Tate argued that expensive theatre tickets made the art form "elitist".

"If you want more people to come to the theatre, don't put the prices at £50," she told the BBC before starring in Under The Blue Sky.

23/09/2008 08:52:30