How to Buy Cheap(er) Theatre Tickets in London? (Updated February 2016)

Everyman 'poster' @National Theatre, London

It’s no news if I tell you that London is expensive. However, if you are not into buying a property, but only theatre tickets (they can also be very expensive at times), there are ways of not spending too much.

So, how to get cheaper tickets for the great London theatre and hot shows in town?

1. Grab cheap tickets published by theatres at certain time 

National Theatre – Friday Rush

Friday Rush at the National Theatre is a new thing (in 2015). Every Friday at 1 PM, the NT puts on sale cheap tickets for several performances in the week that follows. I love the National Theatre and have a recurring reminder on Friday at 12:55. It got me 20£ tickets for their sold out performances with Stephen Mangan and Ralph Fiennes.

Note: I couldn’t see the tickets for all the shows at 13:00, but they appeared within a minute or two, so don’t leave straight away if you don’t see what you are looking for.

Royal Opera House – Friday Rush

At the same time as the National Theatre, ROH has their own Friday Rush to offer last-minute cheaper tickets, which is great for the venue that has some of the most expensive tickets in the city.

The Old Vic – 10£ Tickets for Previews
The Old Vic sells at least 50% of the tickets for the first 5 previews of the production, priced at 10£, 5 weeks prior to the 1st preview. Follow them on their PwC Previews page and make sure to set a reminder. I can bet they will disappear in a moment.

Royal Court – 10£ Monday

Every Monday at 9AM Royal Court theatre releases some tickets online for the same day performance, priced at 10£.

(Not offered at the moment – June 2017) – Donmar Warehouse – 10£ front row tickets – Monday, two weeks in advance of performances

On Monday, two weeks in advance of performances, at 10 AM Donmar releases £10 front row tickets. They can be purchased online, over the phone (0844 871 7624) or in person at the Box Office.

2. If you are aged between sweet teens and 25 – 26 or a student in some cases…

National Theatre sells tickets for a fiver through their Entry Pass scheme to those aged between 16 and 25.

Barbican has their own Young Barbican scheme for the age 14 – 25. The ticket price varies from 5£ – 15£.

Bush Theatre‘s Connect Scheme applies to students and youngsters under 26. They offer 10£ – 12.50£ for various performances.

Sadler’s Well gives 50% discount for under 16s on some matinees

3. Remember that the cheap tickets don’t wait for you 

Be online, ready to buy at the beginning of the sales

If you are buying at the very beginning of the sales, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to choose cheap(er) and good tickets. But be in the online queue for the hot shows exactly when the sales open and I mean it.

I’ll give you an example of the madness around some shows in this city. In 2015, I joined the queue, to buy the tickets for Clarence Darrow with Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic, 3:37 hours after the sales started. I was number 2021 and waited for over 2 hours to be able to pick 2 tickets for the seats, which were not even next to each other. A few hours later the play, which was supposed to be on for 5 weeks, was sold out. Well, it was worth the effort ;).

4. Check if the theatre gives a number of discounted tickets for certain performances

I found that for Young Vic, Sadler’s Well (20% discounts if you buy tickets for multiple shows – not all performances are eligible).

5. Follow the theatres on the social media to find out when the sales for the hot shows start

I created a London Theatre Twitter list where I follow what’s happening in London and its surroundings, but I am also subscribed to many newsletters. The newsletters can be annoying sometimes, but they are my best source of finding out when the sales starts.

6. On the day of the performance, show up at the box office 

Finally, a very old-fashioned advice, knock at the window of the box office – in person :). Many theatres do release cheap tickets on the day of the performance, but they will mainly sell them at the box office and there can be a limit to the number of the tickets you can buy. Therefore, if you are interested in a particular play, ring the box office and ask if they do release cheaper tickets at times. The box office people are very nice and I am sure they will give you all the answers. Trust me, I do deal with them a lot and have never had a bad experience.

Another option is to enquire about the last minute returns. People do that sometimes at the latest moment and if you are into queuing, why not take a chance?

7. Be ready to stand the whole performance

Come on, actors sometimes stand for the whole performance, why wouldn’t you? 🙂
Some theatres have standing tickets and they are always the cheapest. There, where I’ve seen them, they normally have something to lean on so, probably, it’s not that bad.

8. Beware of “discounted tickets”

There are lots of websites selling and advertising discounted tickets, but they charge a fee so they are more expensive than if you buy the tickets directly from the theatre. However, the resellers sometimes get ranked on Google higher than the theatres themselves and some have so credible names that you might think it’s the theatre itself.

9. Look for genuinely discounted tickets

London is a big city where many people try to conquer the market. Therefore, genuine discounts are constantly offered, even by the resellers, but always double-check directly.

10. Watch the play online

This is something I haven’t tried yet, but it’s worth a try, especially for something like the award winning London’s West End performance All My Sons from 2011, with brilliant Zoë Wanamaker and David Suchet. There are two options I know about at the moment, Shakespeare’s Globe lets and sells their own productions and Digital Theatre offers various things from the English theatre – drama, opera, ballet, classical music.

And in the end….

11. Never lose hope…

… and keep on checking for the tickets of the sold out shows. When hot tickets go on sale many months before the performances start (e.g. I have bought a ticket for a play with Judi Dench 7 months ahead), it’s understandable that plans change and very often people return the tickets. So, if I desperately want to see something, I keep on checking and, believe it or not, at some weird hour I buy them for the following day show.

12. Become a member of your favourite theatre

Theatre members do get an opportunity to buy tickets upfront as well as they do get special discounts. The membership fees vary, but if you are regular in one of the theatres, the discounts will add up….

Arriving by car to the city centre? Check on the offers the theatres have with car parks.

For the Soho and West End area, a number of the theatres have an agreement with Q-Park – 50% off on up to 24h stay.

The National Theatre, also has good car park prices at their premisses. The after 5PM rate is 8GBP flat rate even if you don’t attend their performances.

If something new crosses my mind, I’ll update the post, but until then, enjoy the show!

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