How to see top London shows without breaking the bank!
Great as it is to work in theatre, sometimes it's good to kick back and see the shows for yourself – whether that's to expand your theatrical knowledge, gather inspiration, or simply have a good night out. To prevent you from spending your entire salaries on your theatre habit, we asked our friends at From the Box Office to give us their favourite money saving tips. Remember there are always ways to see great theatre for about the price of a cinema ticket - you just need to know where to look!
Early Birds Get The Days Seats
Many of the big shows now offer day seats to in-person callers at each theatre’s own box office. Generally, you’ll need to rock up no later than 10am when the theatre opens and, if you want to sit in the centre, then getting up with the lark is advisable (particularly at weekends when some fans will arrive from 6am). Seats are normally front row stalls (this can vary) and once they’re gone, that’s it. However, we have it on good authority that the friendly box office folk in some theatres will find you a couple of nice seats elsewhere at the day seat rate if they can. Day seat prices vary by show – generally around £15-£30.
Restricted View Ain't Always Bad
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the good old “res views”. All auditoria are different and although you could find yourself stuck behind a pillar, you could equally find all you have to worry about is a safety rail, or a slightly side-on view or, in the case of Stomp, missing a short scene. Buy your tickets from the box office directly and you’ll pay no booking fee and get the best possible advice from the people who actually work there - most of whom will know just what it feels like to be on a budget!
Embrace Life On The Edge
Some shows offer seats with a side view at much lower prices. A great example is Wicked, which currently offers Stalls tickets in rows B-K for £17.50 each…£75 cheaper than seats in the middle of the row. We think it’s worth missing a flying monkey for that kind of saving!
Last Minute Offers
It is well worth signing up to theatre newsletters because websites like lovetheatre.com, lastminute.com and fromtheboxoffice.com will often strike deals with producers for big savings and will rejoice in telling you about it! Shop around for the best deals though as sometimes the actual discounts don’t quite live up to those advertised. You might not know exactly where you’ll sit, but if you’re flexible then these offers are well worth a punt. One agency was recently offering seats and a meal for around £25, saving bookers a small fortune on a night out!
Benefit From Sponsorships
Love it or hate it, the financial world is an important part of Theatre. Whether it’s the renaming of the National Theatre’s Cottesloe to the Dorfman Theatre or Mastercard sponsoring the Olivier Awards, we’d advise throwing your principles out of the nearest window and making the most of the cheaper tickets that many less commercial organisations are able to offer through the schemes these financial giants support. Particular ones to look out for are the £15 Travelex seasons at the National Theatre and Barclays Front Row at the Donmar.
Under 21s, Students, OAPs, Equity
If you are “of a certain age” (young enough not to care, or old enough to know better) then why not fritter your pension or student loan on a trip to the theatre? Many shows will offer some mid-week tickets at a substantial discount so it's always worth asking if there are any discounts available. You may need to show the relevant ID, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Group Rates For You & Your Mates
If you can rustle up a few friends (or even complete strangers) then you might qualify for a group rate. This will tend to be on top price seats, but will usually save you a big chunk of money. Exactly what constitutes a group varies by show - nomally a minimum of 8-10 people. If you can increase numbers, you may find even better rates for a group of 20/30+.
Get In First With Priority Booking
Pre-register with as many websites are you can that offer priority booking before new shows go on sale to the general public. Not only will you keep one step ahead of your mates, you’ll get the pick of the best of the cheap seats.
Premium Price Downs
Producers are increasingly using premium seats as a way of maximising revenue on popular shows. Premium seats tend to be front centre stalls and dress circle. If unsold, these seats may, at the discretion of the box office manager, be “priced down” on the day of the show. Add to this the fact that agencies return unsold seats to the box office a few hours before curtain up, and you could find that by popping in to the box office an hour or two before the show, you are offered some lovely seats at a price you can actually afford!
Theatre Specific Discounts
Some theatres offer tickets at a discounted rate for the up coming week. The National Theatre for example releases tickets to all 3 of it's theatres on Friday afternoon as part of its 'Friday Rush' promotion and it sells them for just £20 each! There will usually be some rules, such as a limit of 2x tickets per order.
Upgrades - Risky But Worth A Try
It’s sometimes worth buying the cheapest possible ticket in the Gods on the off-chance that the theatre will decide to keep that level closed and move customers down. This is a risky strategy as while some larger theatres may occasionally decide to do this for quieter shows, there’s never a guarantee that you won’t just end up stuck up there watching occasional clouds drift past. However, in our opinion, it’s worth a go and in fact, many upper circles still offer a pretty acceptable view.
TKTS – The Official London Theatre Ticket Booth
A long and much loved institution, the TKTS booth in Leicester Square offers considerable savings on ticket prices and its staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Sadly the days of most tickets being sold at half price are long gone, but you’ll still find a huge range of tickets for top West End shows at a range of great discounts on the day of the show, and occasionally even a few days beforehand. You can only book in-person, but visit the website to see what’s on sale before you visit.
Get Into London Theatre (GILT)
Look out for promotions such as the Society of London Theatre’s annual Get Into London Theatre which offers discounted seats for a wide range of top West End shows. Prices are simple, what you see is what you pay, and there are no booking or postage fees. The best tickets for the most popular shows obviously go quickly, so it helps to keep updated via the website or GILT’s social media channels.
Standing - For Those With Stamina
Shows which sell out will occasionally offer standing tickets. If you can cope with 3 hours on your feet, it’s not too terrible a way to see a West End show. It’s very hit and miss however, and many venues (including the Lyceum and the gargantuan Royal Albert Hall) will stick you at the very top where you’ll not only stand, but be wishing you’d invested in a decent pair of binoculars.
Don't Get Ripper Off - Always Follow The Star
Wherever and however you book tickets, always look out for the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) logo because it shows that the agent you are buying has signed up to an official code of conduct and is a reputable ticket seller.
If you’re prepared to spend a bit of time searching for the best deals, we hope our suggestions will enable you to enjoy London theatre for less!
The From The Box Office blog takes a witty and informed turn around West End Theatre, with interviews, reviews and features. From The Box Office has a large selection of full price and discounted London theatre tickets. Book right up to the last minute, directly from the venue, choose your seats and benefit from free UK delivery.