If you're looking to buy cheap theatre tickets in London, there are all sorts of tips and tricks for getting the best deals. Here's some advice to help you score a fantastic afternoon or evening's entertainment for a bargain price.
Discounted theatre tickets available almost all the time
Now and again you get a show that's so popular there's no chance of getting cut price theatre tickets. Occasionally it's because the production was only booked for a short run, and a sudden runaway success means tickets are hot property. But most of the time, under ordinary circumstances, you should be able to track down bargain theatre tickets.
One thing to bear in mind - cheap seats don't always provide the best views of the stage, or the most comfort. Check the theatre's seating plan before you buy – most good theatres include one on their website, and so do we. A bargain is only a bargain if you can see the stage and fit into your seat!
Buying tickets online
Discount websites like Timeout.com/tickets, lastminute.com and sites like ours are a great place to start. They provide substantial discounts on West End shows as well as bigger shows at theatres off the main drag. But it's really important to make sure you buy from a STAR registered seller like us to avoid being ripped off.
There are some real horror stories out there, where unsuspecting foreign visitors have fallen foul of dodgy online tout websites charging hundreds of pounds for tickets when the face value is much lower. These websites don't include a contact telephone number and while they sell legitimate tickets, the prices they charge are far from legitimate. Sadly, there's usually no comeback and no way to get a refund if you're ripped off.
STAR stands for Secure Tickets from Authorised Retailers and every legitimate seller will feature their logo. It means the supplier is properly authorised by the theatres themselves to sell tickets. If you're not sure whether a ticket sales website is legit, here's a link to the STAR website.
Two Society of London ticket booths to choose from
The famous non-profit theatre tickets kiosk in Leicester Square are excellent, the source of many a bargain. It and the sister kiosk at Brent Cross are both run by the Society of London Theatre and sell tickets at lower prices than unofficial touts in the area.
Talking of touts, it's best to avoid ticket touts at all costs. If someone is wandering around offering discount tickets outside the theatre, steer clear.
Grab 'day tickets' for great last minute theatre deals
Most big shows release what's called 'day tickets' on the actual day the performance takes place, perfect if you're happy to wait and see if you can snag a last minute deal. They're usually sold at a cheap rate and are only available from the box office at the venue in question, in person.
Pre-opening night previews
Whether it's the fringe or the West End proper, most venues offer reduced price previews before the opening night. It's a brilliant way to catch a show early, but remember you're watching a finely-honed work in progress rather than the finished, perfected article.
The National Theatre – A choice of subsidised seats
It's good to know that several of the bigger venues have special offers on a more or less permanent basis. It makes sense to check the theatre website to see what's on offer.
Take the National Theatre, which is heavily subsidised and usually a great deal cheaper than the rest of the West End. For example there's their Travelex £12 season, where you can buy tickets for a collection of spring and summer shows at just £12 each. Then there's the National Theatre's Entry Pass scheme, especially for young people, where 16-25 year olds can sign up for access to £5 tickets for every show at the venue.
Like most theatres the National also offers day tickets, which you can only buy in person at the venue, on the day of the show, from 9.30am. They sell 'standing room' tickets for a fiver, although you'll have to stand up for the entire performance. Their generous discounted tickets scheme also includes cut price standby and student standby seats, available an hour and a half before the performance starts. And last but by no means least, students get 50% off every Wednesday.
What about Off-West End?
Of course there's more to London's theatreland than the West End. There are countless excellent theatres tucked away throughout the capital, many of which host top productions before they go mainstream and most of which cost less than West End venues.
Almost all of London's major off-West End theatres offer in-house discounts and cheap ticket offers and, unlike the West End, they all give discounts on concessions tickets for students, jobseekers and older people.
Because off-West End theatres act as independent commissioning houses, they're the perfect way to catch new classics in the making, a hotbed of new writing and fresh talent. You can expect to pay around £15-£30 for tickets. Take the beautiful Almeida Theatre, chic and sophisticated, which puts on thoughtful pieces for adults: if you're under 30 you can buy £15 opening week tickets.
London's fringe theatre scene is lively, creative, vibrant and fun. Obviously the production values aren't as good as in the big theatres, for big shows, but it's never dull and there's a wide variety of productions to experience. You can expect to pay as little as £12 per ticket on the fringe, and they all offer discounted concessions tickets.
Take the Finborough Theatre, one of the best fringe venues in town, where the longer a show has run the higher priced the tickets. It makes sense: if a show proves a hit, it's worth paying a little more for. You tend to pay around £15 for regular tickets mid-run, rising to £18 at the end of the run.
If you'd like help or advice, as a 100% legitimate STAR member we're always happy to provide it.