How to go to the theatre without breaking the bank

How to go to the theatre without breaking the bank

Basically, I’m sharing all of my secrets with the entire internet here. So I hope you’re grateful. People ask me all the time how I go to the theatre so often, and basically it’s because I’m a little bit lucky, I have friends who LOVE the theatre so it’s what we do rather than going clubbing/for expensive meals etc, and because I have spent a long long time in my life looking for good deals. It seems rude not to share them. So this is how I manage it…

Day seats

Theatremonkey has a far more comprehensive list than I could ever try to create and that’s where I get all of my information anyway, so… Day seats are basically Tickets which you queue up for on the morning of the performance, to get tickets at a reduced standard rate. They vary a lot depending on the theatre and the show – they are often front row seats (not always a good thing!). Depending on the show you will have to arrive a certain amount of time before the box office opens in the morning, in order to guarantee tickets. Follow the link for probably one of the best theatre resources the internet has ever seen. Shows such as Matilda and Wicked have day seats.

TodayTix

This is a new addition to this list as it’s only relatively recently that it’s made it’s way over from the US, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful app. The fact that it is on mobile devices and is therefore so easy to use makes me love it even more. It is a triple threat, offering:

  • Lotteries. A lot of shows in London are running ticket lotteries. The Book Of Mormon, Aladin, and Hamilton when it eventually gets here, all do these in person at the box office. Several other shows including the acclaimed Dreamgirls and Kinky Boots use TodayTix to do this electronically. You submit a request for either 1 or 2 tickets before 15:30 for an evening performance, 11:30 (I think!) for a matinee, and get an email pretty quickly after that letting you know whether or not you have won. If you win on TodayTix, you don’t have to accept the tickets, but if you want them, you have to accept them within an hour.
  • Rush Tickets. These go on sale at 10am for most shows, and it’s just as it sounds – last minute tickets for that evening at a fixed price, on a first come first served basis.
  • Good deals a week in advance. TodayTix now sell tickets for up to a month in advance, but they have the best deals on tickets for the coming week. Always check their prices agains the box office directly, but from what I can tell they are selling some pretty cheap seats.

You can use my code TUNWE to get £10 off your first order on TodayTix. That counts for lottery and rush tickets too. (Full disclosure – I will also get £10 credit – everyone’s a winner.)

Get into London Theatre

Seriously, this is an absolutely brilliant website. It’s seasonal, and it’s only available for tickets in January and February, so they are worth remembering for December when they go on sale this year. People don’t really go to the theatre in January and February, it seems, so the Society of London Theatre launched Get Into London Theatre which basically has tickets, with no added fees, for most shows in London for £10, £20, £30 and £40. You can search the tickets by price, and you know exactly what you’re getting (i.e. how much the tickets have been reduced by etc). Often they’re not available for weekends but it’s worth checking. I saw The Railway Children, Guys and Dolls, and The Kite Runner using this site and highly recommend it.

Lastminute.com

So I always used to think that Lastminute.com was a bit of a scam because I couldn’t ever find anything even remotely decent on there. However I have realised a fantastic advantage of booking with them. When you book, you book a certain price and don’t choose your seats but are given ‘best available’ for that price. BUT, it seems, at most theatres, you actually just get the best seats available in the theatre when they print the tickets, on the day of the performance. So if it’s a quieter performance or a less popular show, you may be able to buy tickets and Band D price, but if there are some band A or B seats available, the theatre will seat you there instead.

Lovetheatre.com

one of the few sites which honestly has great offers for a lot of shows and is so simple and easy to use. The ‘apply special offer’ button is key – it shows you only dates on which the advertised offer is available, and the offers are actually really good in the first place.

Students and Under 25s offers

HotTicketOffers have a LOT of student offers, and some which aren’t exclusive to students. They’re often for kind of obscure things but also they’re REALLY GOOD. They have them for things like museum events as well, not just theatre. The National Theatre also have their Entry Pass scheme, which offers £5 tickets and £7.50 mates rates for members (it’s free to join) and Mousetrap Projects offer £10 tickets sporadically if you’ve signed up.

TKTS

Tkts at Leicester Square is a huge booth which sells theatre tickets on the day, often at half price. They have a list here which shows what they have on sale at the moment – be careful though, they list things which they haven’t actually discounted at all – make sure you check their price against the retail price; they’re honest but a little sneaky! The shows which are discounted though are often half price!

Seat Plan

This is a bit of a strange one – basically you kind of have to be on the theatre hype already to care about it. But hear me out. Go to their website, create an account and then when you go to the theatre and have a ticket – you submit a review of the seat you sat in. Their aim is to get a review of every seat in London, but you can submit a review for a seat even if someone else has reviewed it already. For every review which includes a photo (either of the view from the seat, or the ticket) you submit you get a point, and every 10 points you get a £10 theatre token. They add up surprisingly quickly. Luckily, I had all of my tickets in a scrapbook from as far back as 2007, so I spent a couple of hours one day submitting them all and earned myself £30 in vouchers, which was lovely.

Don’t go on a Friday or a Saturday

Just don’t. It’s always more expensive, and even if the tickets would be the same price, the cheaper ones always sell out quickly so you end up having to pay more anyway. I love the theatre on a Saturday night because there is such an atmosphere of non-Londoners, but you do pay for it. Also, there’s no chance of being upgraded to better seats if you have bought cheaper tickets, something which does happen in the week, as the theatre is often close to full on a Friday or Saturday.

Book directly with the box office

if you want to book in advance and none of the above options are getting you anywhere.  Often ‘good deals’ won’t actually be good deals. A website might offer tickets ‘From £18.75’ for example, but they’re actually £15 tickets with a £3.75 booking fee – so you could be buying them directly from the box office cheaper. I don’t mean you have to actually physically go to the theatre, either, every show has their own website and ticket booking facility which is usually powered by someone like ATG or See Tickets, which will be the cheapest if none of the above websites or tricks have worked!

Let me know if you have anything to add to the list, or the best deals you’ve had! 

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