The BBC is planning to boost its arts coverage and bring theatrical news to the masses, and last year statistics recorded a rise in theatre-going, especially in young people. This is fantastic news, but another recent trend is the rise in ticket prices for many West End shows. The Made in Dagenham musical, for instance, is selling standard stalls and dress circle tickets for nearly £70.00 each.
Fortunately for the cash-strapped among us, there are several ways to grab yourself a cheaper ticket to top-class plays or musicals. I’ve gathered some advice here for you to peruse and hopefully use at your leisure!
1. Box Office deals
Many theatres offer fantastic deals on the day for tickets that afternoon or evening, but this normally involves a fair bit of queuing! Last year, I read on Twitter that people had queued from 7.30am for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time day seats. The Box Office opens at 10am and tickets are £15. The ‘Theatre Monkey’ website has a great page of day seat details for current productions. It tells you the prices and limitations of tickets, and most importantly, when to start queuing!
2. TKTS booth
In the heart of Leicester Square sits a beacon of hope for literally anyone who wants to make a great saving on theatre tickets. Situated diagonally opposite the Radisson Edwardian Hampshire Hotel, TKTS operates from 10-7 Monday to Saturday and 11-4.30 on Sundays. This the only official theatre booth and it has been running since 1980 after being set up by the Society of London Theatre. It is usually your cheapest option if you are buying tickets on the day from a Leicester Square booth. You can only buy your tickets in person, whether you are buying in advance or not. The savings you can make are vast. Tonight (2nd April 2014) you could see Billy Elliot for £46, instead of £66, saving you £20.
3. The Book of Mormon Ticket Lottery
This sensational satirical musical hosts a ticket lottery for each performance. A lottery, you say? Indeed, and one of the funnest lotteries you will ever enter! Every day, two and a half hours before each performance, an enthusiastic employee of the Prince of Wales theatre appears to collect entries from people who wish to gain a front row ticket to the musical for only £20. You may only enter once but you can apply for a pair of tickets, which means if both you and your partner enter you have two chances of winning. You must remember your passport or driving license as proof of identity is required if you win, and tickets are purchased from the Box Office immediately after winners are drawn two hours before the performance is due to start. To sum up, your window of opportunity is from 12-12.30 for matinees and 5-5.30 for evening performances. And if you don’t win first time, just remember, tomorrow is a latter day 🙂
4. Barclays Front Row Tickets
The Donmar Warehouse has a fairly new initiative that is designed to give people access to front row tickets for a mere £10 each. Each Monday, these tickets will be released at 10am for all performances two weeks later. For instance, on Monday 7th April, tickets for 21 – 26 April will be released. These sell out quickly, so you have to be quick off the mark, and you can only book one pair of tickets. The critically acclaimed Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston was part of this scheme, so you really will get to see quality productions in a fantastic Front Row seat!
5. National Theatre Entry Pass and concessions
If you are aged 16-25, you should definitely take advantage of this free membership scheme. You get £5 tickets to all NT productions and many other discounts, including the chance to bring a friend (who is also aged 16-25) for a mere £7.50.
When booking your tickets, whether it be online, on the phone or in person, always ask if there are any discount tickets available. At many venues there are, and the savings can be vast. The Almeida Theatre, for example, offers concessions prices for the over 60s, under 30s, Islington residents and students. This theatre has recently housed the epic productions of the American Psycho musical and 1984, both of which I managed to see for £18. The Old Vic also runs a scheme by PWC which allows those under 25 to get tickets to productions for a mere £12. Use the promo code PWC U25 when booking.
6. Travelex £15 tickets
Travelex has a great partnership with the National Theatre and tickets to many productions are sold for only £15, and £35 at most for full price tickets! All details are published on their website.
If there is a show that you want to see opening soon, sign up for either the theatre’s and/or the show’s mailing list so you are the first to know when the booking period opens. Most productions offer reduced-price tickets for the first few weeks before Press Night, when the team are still making changes to the show. The overall production remains the same, but things such as lighting or characters’ lines may be altered slightly each night to decide between one option or another. These tickets are commonly £10 less than the usual price, so if you wanted a seat in the stalls that would cost £60 after Press Night, it will likely be £50 before. As a frequent buyer of preview tickets, I would advise you to buy them as close to the Press Night as possible. This way, you are practically getting the finished article, and there is less risk of you losing out if the show doesn’t open on time (I Can’t Sing! cancelled some preview performances this year, meaning ticket-holders had to either get a refund or reschedule their trip).
Having a young child/sibling/cousin/niece/nephew/etc… who likes the theatre (or is easy to drag along!) becomes invaluable during the summer. The Society of London Theatre has once again made theatre-going a cheaper experience for many, as during August any child under the age of 16 can go free to a variety of shows when accompanied by an adult paying full price. So if you have been dying to see Matilda the Musical, you can take a child with you at no cost, and avoid sitting in the theatre on your lonesome!
[images are not my own]