So over my time on this Earth I’ve somehow managed to see 94, yes, 94 shows. That be on the West-End, off West-End, tours, amateur productions, musicals and plays. I’m only 21, am not a millionaire, nor am I Cameron Makintosh’s relative. I’ve simply become accustomed to the ways of the theatre world and how to get affordable tickets, so I thought I’d share some of my knowledge. A lot of people do often ask me how I afford to go to the theatre so much, so sit back and take notes kids…
1. In the Cheap Seats (with use of TheatreMonkey)
I’m not going to lie, the first tip is pretty boring. Simply sit in the cheap(er) seats. Every theatre has them. While everyone would love to be able to pay over £100 to be in the best seats in the stalls, not everyone can afford that. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in the Upper Circle in the cheapest seats in the theatre and had the best time, knowing I was only paying £20 for my ticket. Albeit I much prefer to be in the better seats AND we all know the view won’t be amazing, but if you want to see a show and you haven’t got the money – you’ve just got to put up with the cheapest seats in the house.
A website that I find really useful for this is theatremonkey which is where previous theatre-goers write reviews on their view of the stage from their seat, and you often find that the views aren’t awful. Like I said, to see a West End show for £20, it’s worth being in up in the Gods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a £10 ticket to STAND at Les Miserables. Yep you heard me right, I STOOD for the longest show I’ve ever seen about 5 times and I do not regret it. Cheap seats are the way to go people.
2. Day-Seating and check the website
Now this is probably my favourite way of getting cheap theatre tickets and something I recommend to my non-theatre knowing friends all the time. It’s called “day seating” and most theatres will have some sort of day-seating scheme. For most theatres the principal is that once the box office opens at 10am, the first x amount of people will get seats for the show for a reduced price. Wicked for example offers front row seats for £30 for the first 20 people (I think) in the queue. In order to guarantee you get seats, it’s recommended to get to the theatre for roughly 8am (depending on the popularity of the show and the time of year) and bob’s your uncle.
Not all shows work like this: some shows offer ticket lotterys (The Book of Mormon and Aladdin I know do this), some do cheap standing tickets (Les Miserables), and some do random deals, such as The Phantom of the Opera offers cheap tickets for Thursday matinee performances. Again, theatremonkey is your friend here. It offers you a list of all London’s major theatres and shows, telling you the type of dayseat, price, recommended time getting to the theatre, and previous reviews.
It’s also worth checking the website of the show you want to see as well for any further information on there. Such as Matilda offers a £5 scheme but you have to be under 25 and provide ID, so don’t get caught out!
3. Restricted View seats
Similar to that of getting cheap seats, getting “restricted view” seats isn’t awful. For example, at Les Miserables, the middle two seats in the front row of the stalls are reduced becuase you’re directly behind the conductor. Because of the restricted view, they legally can’t be charged as highly as the rest of the front row seats so they’re discounted. But trust me, after the first 30 seconds you don’t even notice the conductor anymore. I think the prices have gone up since I saw it, but at the time these seats were £47. Yes, £47 for the front row centre seats for Les Miserables. Yes please.
Similarly, I saw Billy Elliot for a mere £17 in the front row of the upper circle because of the slightly restricted view of a small bar in the way. YES PLEASE.
Still, it’s often advised to check theatremonkey to see what previous people have said. For example, I know that at the back of the Queen’s Theatre for Les Miserables, you can’t see the top of the barricade which is disappointing. So definitely check what others have said before buying reduced priced tickets because of the restricted view.
One very important piece of advice is SLIP SEATS!!!!! Slip seats are seats usually one or two levels above the stage (often referred to as the dress and upper circles) and they’re on the very side of the theatre, so you see the stage from an angle rather than head-on. These seats are often gold as they are restricted = cheaper, but often come with a really up-close and intimate view.
4. Book in Advance and try to be Flexible
This sounds obvious as I’m sure everyone is aware that the earlier you book something, the cheaper it is. Theatre is no different and mainly works on the basis that you have more options in finding some good value reduced tickets. Slip seats, for example, sell out quite quickly, so the earlier you book, the more chance you have of snatching them up.
When booking in advance, try to be flexible with your dates. For example, some shows charge more on Friday nights and Saturday performances because they’re generally busier anyway. A weekday evening or matinee is likely to be a little cheaper so try not to be determined to go on one particular day and have a browse to see what’s available.
5. Apps and Websites
I’ve never actually done this but I’ve seen a lot of friends do it so thought I’d mention it. The App “Today Tix” first made headway on Broadway but is now popularly being used for London shows. The App offers cheap tickets for shows, as well as lotteries and is competitions. You can also filter what you want based on the type of production, price and location to really find a show and a price to suit you.
Similarly, websites such as London Theatre Direct, Official London Theatre and Love Theatre regularly offer discounts on seats, as well as sometimes combining these with pre-show packages such as dining, or added bonuses such as champagne or a free programme. It’s worth checking them out before booking anything and also signing up to their mailing lists to get those deals straight into your inbox to sometimes get deals such as no booking fees as well.
Oh the internet, what a great place to be. Again, I’ve never actually done this, but it is quite frequent that people buy tickets for shows and then are unable to make them for whatever reason. People often turn to the internet to sell such tickets and, while this won’t always work (such as Hamilton is very strict on buying and selling tickets), it can be great! People might reduce the price just to flog them so it’s worth searching the # for the show you want to see, maybe with a couple of other keywords such as #buy or #sell to see if there are any out there before paying full price!
This technique can be quite unlikely but is definitely worth it! (Talking from experience here!) On Twitter especially, you can sometimes find opening shows looking to give away tickets as promotion, theatre websites doing the same, or even companies such as The Independent newspaper. It’s definitely worth entering these because someone’s got to win! A few years back when Guys and Dolls was opening in the Phoenix Theatre, I entered a competition and got 2 free tickets to see the show! On a separate note, I also once won tickets to the film premiere of Love, Rosie starring Sam Claflin and got to walk the red carpet from a competition I entered on Twitter so yep, competitions, good one. Unlikely, but worth it.
8. Keep Checking the Website
Sounds stupid, but you never know, you might get lucky and someone’s returned some tickets that you thought were unavailable! Again, this has never happened to me, but a friend of mine once snatched up tickets to both Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child through simply checking the website regularly. Both these shows are hard to get tickets for, and even harder to get cheap tickets for, so getting them for the price she did was pretty spectacular! It does work people, just be patient!
9. See Off-West End and Amateur Productions
My next tip is to ensure that you see a range of theatre, not just the high-brow West End shows. I’ve seen a few shows off-West-End, such as City of Angels (at the Donmar Warehouse), Fun Home (at the New Vic) and The Braille Legacy (at the King’s Cross Theatre), and the tickets are considerably cheaper than the “big” West End shows. Also, just because they are off-West End, that doesn’t make them any less worthy of seeing or of any lower quality. Similarly, I once saw an amateur production of West Side Story at Cardiff’s New Theatre, and while that wasn’t of the quality I was used to seeing professional shows, it was a great performance and an enjoyable show for a mere £15.
My final tip is simply to ask! For the last 8 years or so, most of my Christmas and birthday presents from my mum have been theatre tickets! So while this means that someone else is paying, it’s free for me! I love going to the theatre with my friends and family so a theatre ticket as a present is an amazing thing for me! For my 20th birthday, my friends got me tickets to Dreamgirls and for my 21st, my boyfriend got me tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (not for a few months though…) If you don’t ask you don’t get, and I can’t thank my family and friends enough for the amazing shows they’ve taken me to over the years!
So there’s my curated list on how to see theatre on the cheap and I hope this has helped you book your next trip!