How to save money and get cheap theatre tickets in London’s West End and beyond.
A trip to the theatre isn’t a cheap night out. Tickets for Hamilton go as high as £190. That’s for one ticket. Crazy prices. But you there are ways to see West End and local theatre productions for less.
I obviously don’t pay that kind of price. Yes for the hottest shows that means I might go without, but there are plenty of ways to see top quality West End and local theatre productions for less.
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Here are my 11 ways to save:
1. Hunt out the best deals
If there’s a play I want to see my first stop is always the excellent Theatre Monkey. Offers are collated and listed in one place making it quicker to find the best price. Plus the website provides seating plans for each theatre, with crowdsourced feedback from readers telling you which seats are good value, and which is bad. Often a ticket might be cheap because you can’t see half the stage!
Other places to look include Time Out Offers which has good deals from time to time. It’s worth signing up for emails. Lastminute.com can also be good for cheap tickets, though you often can’t pick your seats and I’ve spotted they don’t have a good an allocation as they used to.
Generally, avoid sites like TasteCard+. Each time I’ve looked the deals can be beaten elsewhere or aren’t even discounted at all.
If there are any really good deals on lots of productions then I’ll list them on my theatre tickets deals page.
2. Go to theatres with special rates
The National Theatre‘s cheap ticket offer is one of the best theatre deals out there. Half the tickets for each performance cost just £15. They go quick but you can sign up for alerts. American Express cardholders have access to a presale.
Other theatres have cheap tickets too. The Royal Court has cheap seats every Monday (on sale 9am online on the day).
You can of course avoid the west end and see some thing on the fringe, which will be much cheaper. The Arcola has a “Pay What You Can Tuesdays”, with a suggested price of £5. The Battersea Arts Centre gives a 20% discount if you buy tickets for three shows at once. The Globe also has 700 £5 tickets for every performance (though they are standing).
3. Get a cheaper ticket on the day
The TKTs theatre booths aren’t as competitive as they once were, but they’re great if there are a few London shows you’d like to see. Located in Leicester Square, shows on sale are usually half price though some are the full whack. They do sell some discounted in advance, but it’s best for on the day purchases.
You can see available tickets and prices every day.
A number of shows offer reduced tickets on the day from the box office. Sometimes these have been held back for the day, or they could just be returns. For the really popular shows this a great way to get tickets though you do have to get there very early. If you can go the day of a matinee you’ll increase your chances of getting a ticket for one of the two performances.
There’s also an app called TodayTix where you unlock “rush tickets” (first come first serve) by sharing on social media.
You can also get £10 off your first TodayTix order with the code XBAUK
TheatreMonkey has updated details of what’s available, how much and who is eligible.
4. Try a lottery
Some plays, such as The Book of Mormon and the forthcoming Hamilton, run daily lotteries for cheap tickets a few hours before the show begins. You just turn up at the box office and give your name… and hope!
I’ve tried, and failed, for the Friday 40 lottery for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is online only every Friday at 1pm for shows the following week.
The Today Tix app also runs lotteries for some shows.
5. Grab a last minute bargain
I’ve nabbed dozens of free tickets for my parents through Show Film First, often for big West End shows. The reason? Theatres want to fill up the seats. This tends to happen at the start to help spread word of mouth, or near the end of a run when less people are going. There’s usually a £2 fee per ticket – a fraction of the actual ticket cost.
6. Go to a less expensive performance
If you can go on a midweek afternoon – usually a Wednesday or Thursday – you’re more likely to find availability in the cheaper seats. The same goes for evening shows at the start of the week.
Previews are discounted as they’re essentially ticketed dress rehearsals. Most shows will be cheaper. However with full prices already so high, you could still pay a fair amount.
7. Cut your booking and delivery fees
A good way to save is to collect your tickets at the box office on the night of the show.
If there are no special deals or discounts, head to the theatre box office where you can normally avoid booking fees too
8. Buy a cheap seat and ask for an upgrade
Buy a ticket in the cheapest part of the theatre – usually at the top of the upper circle or similar then you could be automatically upgraded. For less busy shows these parts of the theatre are often closed and the tickets redistributed.
I’ve had this happen a few times. A few years ago I bought £10 tickets (to Let The Right One In) via Lastminute.com. There were meant to be restricted view in the top circle level, but when we arrived we found we’d been upgraded to £50 stalls tickets to fill the seats.
If that hasn’t happened automatically and the theatre isn’t too busy, you can always ask when you collect your tix. Or just see if you can move in the interval – thouhgh you might be asked to move back by staff.
9. Ditch the West End
Yes theatre does exist outside central London! There’s lots of top theatre, especially in Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Stratford-uon-Avon and Chichester.
Plus, many shows will tour the UK before moving to the West End, or will be revived a few years later. Seats will pretty much always be cheaper this way.
10. Watch it at the cinema
If you’re not in London or can’t afford West End prices even when they are on offer, then your best chance to see the top plays is in the cinema. Tickets generally range between £15 and £20.
I’m yet to do this, but I’ve heard really good things.