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39 ways to save on theatre tickets11 min read

We recently talked about Shakespeare and the fact that there are/will be dozens of plays and events taking place this year to celebrate the 400th year of his death. You might be very interested in seeing one of the shows based on his stories, but theatre tickets can be expensive in London.

So how can you make sure you don’t pay crazy prices when going to the theatre?

Well…the good news is there are ways. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do so you can bag yourself a cheap or free ticket for what you are interested in.

Depending on your age and/or circumstances you may have access to certain discounts or exemptions. Follow the advice in this article to be ahead of the game…

How to get cheap theatre tickets

Discounts

  • Let’s start with a Shakespeare related idea…the Shakespeare’s Globe has 700 seats at £5 each for every show. You could make the most of that offer to get some tickets to this iconic venue
  • Londonpass: you could get up to 40% off West End shows if you buy the Londonpass. This can be particularly attractive to visitors who are considering getting the pass.
  • Bulk buy
    • Group tickets: most theatres offer discounts for groups. Usually the minimum number is 10 people. So ask your friends and family members if they are interested.
    • 2-for-1 deal: some theatre ticketing sites offer 2-for-1 deals, which give you the possibility to buy tickets for two shows but pay only for one (= this means you get a 50% discount)
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Stratford Theatre

Be organised and/or be flexible

  • Buy directly from the box office of the theatre. If you are not familiar with all the theatres in London, click here to access the list that way you will find their address.
  • Buy in advance
  • Try to see a matinee or evening performance as these are generally cheaper The Matinee Tickets website is dedicated to giving you that information.
  • Do you need the perfect seat and view? Don’t get a stall ticket if you don’t have to. Stalls are more expensive so get a balcony one. But make sure that your visibility is not reduced too much! So when booking ask for some information about seating or try to get that information online. Also, use Seat Plan (great website that enables you to see the seating layout for a particular theatre as well as read customer reviews for a particular seat) and London Theatre Seating Plan to understand where you will sit and if you are satisfied with it before buying your tickets
  • If you don’t mind waiting till the last minute, here is a great tip…head to TKTS The Official London Theatre Ticket Booth. It’s in Leicester Square. You cannot miss it and it looks exactly like the picture below. Each morning at 10 AM they sell theatre tickets at half price! These are leftover seats for that particular day only.
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TKTS booth in Leicester Square
  • Register with Play by Play: as they put it themselves…”Play by Play is a private organisation providing seat-filling and audience development services to live stage productions within the London theatre industry”. They basically help fill unsold seats and the good news for you is…they do it at a much lower price! The drawback though is that you have to pay a membership fee of £75. Then, provided there are seats available for a particular show, you will only have to pay a tiny service fee for each reserved seat which ranges between £1-3. Read their FAQ section
  • Join My Box Office: this is also a seat filling service (= same principle as Play by Play above) but this one is free to join.
  • Buying on the day: if you are entirely flexible and are not planning for Valentine ’s Day or a birthday then try to buy tickets on the day. This is one of the best ways to save because last minute tickets can be a lot cheaper. Check on the day with the theatre that plays the show you want to see.
  • Previews: are a great way to see shows before they are out. Previews exist (especially for major shows) so that producers can know if the show will be successful or not, what to change or cut in a play etc. but it can also be to create a buzz around the show to come (= this will ensure the show launches more successfully through word of mouth). Because this is not yet the ‘finished product’ people who attend a preview only pay a fraction of the price of a standard or premium ticket. Usually, the preview and the real show don’t differ much so why not take part in a preview?

To take part in one, you will need to register with one of the following two companies so you can be notified of future previews and get a seat:

  • The Audience Club: membership is almost free (you will have to pay £5 to The Audience Club’s chosen charity). Discover their story here.
  • Show Savers: this one is completely free to join
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Hackney Empire

Concessions: the different categories of people below can get discounts based on their job situation or circumstances. When booking, simply ask the theatre or the ticket agency if you can get any discount. You may have to produce some entitlement details but that’s logical. So if you fit one of these categories, make the most of it!

  • Unemployed people
  • Disabled people: check the Access London Theatre page so you can know which theatres offer easy access. These theatres will also offer discounts for disabled people so ask them. When you’re on the Access London Theatre page, check their Enabled Maps section as it will show you how to get into the theatre easily if you are in a wheelchair. By the way, some theatres sometimes give carers a chance to see a show for free. So again…ask!

Another little secret is to contact Shape Arts. Shapes Arts has been around for 40 years and helps disabled artists develop a social life. They often give the possibility to get access to discounted tickets. Call them and check with them if they have any theatre related discounts.

  • Equity Tickets: if you are an actor yourself and are part of Equity (which is the trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners), you could get a discount too.
  • NHS staff: go to the healthservicediscounts Then type ‘theatre’ in the search box to see which discounts you can have access to.
  • Students and Under 26: can get discounted access to many theatres. The usual advice….ask the theatre or check this website
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Enjoy the full experience for less

Schemes and membership:

  • Front Row: this scheme gives you the possibility to buy front row seats for £10 only! These very cheap tickets can be bought every Monday from 10 AM and are for performances that will take place 2 weeks later. This is a VERY successful scheme so be quick!! Once you’ve clicked on the Front Row link, go to the bottom of the page and you will see a counter that will let you know when the next tickets will be released.
  • Royal Court Theatre: has a long standing tradition of offering reduced tickets (£10 each) on Mondays. Go online or go to the box office to book a ticket.
  • Entry Pass: another good scheme by the National Theatre is called Entry Pass and is designed for 16-25 years olds. It is free to become a member. Once you are a member, you will only pay £5 for any National Theatre production.
  • Kids Week: is a scheme designed to encourage young people (under the age of 16) to get involved in theatre. Any kid under the age of 16 can go for free provided he/she is accompanied by an adult paying full price. By the way, this scheme lasts a month (not a week, anyone fancies a name change?) and this year it will be from 1 till 31 August 2016. However, the tickets will go on sale from Tuesday 14 June. So mark this date!
  • National Rail: has created its own scheme which offers a 2-for-1 on some theatre tickets when you travel by train. This means you get a 50% discount on the theatre tickets.
  • Consider a theatre membership: theatre lovers may consider getting a membership from ATG. Once you’ve paid the membership, you will be able to buy some discounted tickets + you will have some additional benefits
  • PWYC (Pay What You Can): some theatres have introduced a Pay What You Can You will need to arrive early and be keen to queue. The following theatres offer this scheme but check with them what their rules are first: Arcola Theatre, Park Theatre, Old Read Lion Theatre, Theatre 503
  • Daily ticket lotteries: other theatres run daily ticket lotteries for certain plays. That’s the case for the Book of Mormon for example.
TodayTIX
TodayTIX offers discounts on a range of shows

Websites and apps:

  • You could register to the following 4 websites to receive news about their current promotions/daily discounts. One of their promotions could be about theatre plays that you are interested in seeing. Or you could simply book one of the discounted shows in that offers. Here are these websites:
  • Stubhub: is a ticket marketplace where people can buy and sell tickets about different types of events and theatre plays as well. You could use Stubhub to check their pricing for a particular show.
  • Use the TodayTix app to buy a current week’s theatre tickets at a great price.

Consider the fringe theatre:

  • We have given you some interesting tips on how to save on theatre tickets. But this was mainly for ‘major’ plays. If you are still tempted to spend a great night out, would like to pay little and don’t mind how notorious a show is why not try the fringe theatre? You will still see a great show and who knows…you might see tomorrow’s future stars before anybody else.

Additional money saving tip for drivers

  • If you go to the theatre by car use the Theatreland Parking Here’s how it works (information taken from q-park.co.uk’s website): “Simply have your car park ticket validated at the participating theatre box office and the 50% discount will automatically be applied when you return to the car park pay machine”

Click here to get some information about the scheme and see the list of participating theatres/car parks.

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Theatre bookings office, Leicester Square

Save on booking

When booking, avoid paying booking fees otherwise what’s the point of making so much effort to find a cheap ticket in the first place?….

Here’s what you can do to avoid paying booking fees:

  • go to the venue:
    • go there in person to get your ticket if you can so that you don’t have to pay any booking or postage fee.
  • use their booking line or website: you might be able to pay lower fees.
  • use cash or your debit card but do not use your credit card! If you use your credit card, you will be charged a fee by your credit card company.

 

As you can see there are countless ways you can save when buying/booking theatre tickets. Use the ideas that apply to you to your benefit so you can spend a great night (or matinee) out and save money. Going to the theatre is a truly enjoyable experience. One of the last shows we saw was Wicked and it was…wicked! We enjoyed it and had a great laugh. A highly recommended show! And we had a one hundred percent discount on our tickets…..because they were a present and were offered to us!

That’s our final (cheeky) tip on how to save on theatre tickets! 🙂

 

Question: Do you know of any other tips on how to save money when booking theatre tickets? Please share with us.

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