About Time: You Saw More Theatre for LessBy Gilly Hopper
Between ticket lotteries, day tickets and student pre-assigned performances, there’s no reason why you can’t make a night at the theatre a regular event. Don’t even try that “I don’t like queuing gibberish…” You’re English; you love it! It’s ‘About Time You Saw More Theatre for Less £££’ through one of our seven selected routes. Here’s how to get theatreland tickets on the cheap…
Lottery – Top-price tickets for each performance are sold through an on-the-day lottery at the theatre for a generous reduction (generally around £20-30). Generally entries are accepted two-and-a-half hours prior to each performance for up to two tickets. Two hours before curtain, names will be drawn at random, making for a rather theatrical event in itself. * Cough, cough, The Book of Mormon partakes in a daily lottery scheme.
The Rules: One entry per person and up to two tickets per winner (you must specify whether you’d like one or two tickets when you enter.) Don’t forget to bring along a valid ID to purchase tickets.
TKTS – The ONLY trustworthy tout in town is the non-profit Leicester Square ticket booth, TKTS. Discount and half price theatre tickets are available on the day of performance and often up to a week in advance. Outlets are located at Leicester Square’s, Clocktower Building and Brent Cross. The Society of London Theatre runs TKTS, so you know bargains are legit. For an ever better bargain, TKTS’s latest ticket offer (launching this September) offers theatregoers half price tickets to a number of selected shows every Wednesdays in September.
Opening times for Leicester Square are Monday – Saturday 10-7pm, Sunday 11-4.30pm.
Tip: Don’t expect to get deals on the seasons most popular shows, like the Lion King, The Book of Mormon etc., it just won’t happen. Bummer, we know.
Day Seats – A limited number of top price tickets are available in person from the Box Office at a reduced fee on the day of performances. With the majority of West End box offices opening at 10am, it is wise to arrive two hours prior to this to maximize your success if you’re hoping to get to a popular show.
Tip: Choose to attend on days when there is both a matinee and evening performance to double your chances of getting that ticket. Day seats are not available for all theatres so be sure to check the website.
Previews – Before the press have passed their judgments, the house may offer reduced tickets (averaging at around 20%) to performances while the show works out its final kinks. A cost effective and interesting way to experience the theatre, preview periods vary in duration from a couple of days to sometimes months. Keep an eye out for extended preview periods too.
Standby – If you’re unemployed, a full-time student, over 60 or a theatre union member then standby! One hour before curtain (approx. 6.30pm) you can stop by the box office for up to 70% discount on unsold seats. Most theatres adhere to this policy, but few openly promote it.
Tip: Make sure to have a valid ID and cash in hand.
The Wishful Thinker – Sometimes buying tickets for the Upper Circle (at the very back and way up high) can actually make for one strategic buy. When sales are average, you may be reallocated to lower tier of the theatre as the upper circle has been closed. Ah ha! The actors want to see your faces and you will be mighty glad to actually be able to see theirs too. If you aren’t lucky enough to be allocated new seats (and this is not an improbability), at least you’ve purchased the cheapest seats sold by the house (a good option if discounted rates don’t apply or you want to secure tickets for a mixed age group ahead of performance night).
The Under 25s Club – don’t let youth be wasted on the young. Here are three cheap and cheerful ticketing schemes just for you…
- The National Theatre’s Entry Pass – a free membership scheme for anyone aged 16 – 25. Student tickets to all NT productions range from £1 to £25, plus you can snag last minute £10 Student Standby tickets on the day!
- The English National Opera (ENO) – discounts for 16-25 years old on all in-house productions at the London Coliseum, through their Access All Arias programme. This one is ideal for budding ballet and opera enthusiasts. Tickets £10 – £30.
- The Old Vic with PwC – 100 PwC ticketsfor under 25s, priced at £12, are available for each performance at the Old Vic Theatre. Enter ‘PWC U25’ promo code before purchasing.
- Southbank Centre – A limited allocation of half-price tickets is available for full-time students.
- Young Barbican – receive discounted tickets across art, film, music, theatre and dance for just £5, £10 or £15. From new releases in our cinemas for just £5 Monday to Thursday (and, yes, that includes 3D films) to international theatre shows, it’s free to join and you can bring a friend for the same price. Plus no booking fees added at the checkout – how nice.