Where to find cheap theatre tickets
Want to go to the theatre more but always find that tickets are extortionate? The truth is going to the theatre doesn't cost the earth if you know where to look
Theatre is too expensive! It's the cry of many a wannabe theatregoer these days, who, more often than not, would rather settle for a cheap box set on the couch than a pricey peek past the fourth wall. But are they missing out unnecessarily? Yes, theatre isn't always affordable, but there are many, many stagey hacks which will enable you to bag yourself a surprisingly affordable ticket to some of the most exciting shows. 'How? Where? When?' we hear you cry. Worry not – we have the answers. Here we've brought together all the tips, tricks, schemes and memberships you need to find the cheapest theatre tickets in all the theatreland.
Be an early bird
It may seem an obvious thing to point out, but getting in the line (virtual or real) early is one of the best ways of securing a cheap ticket. The cheaper tickets always go first, so if you've clicked on the link the moment tickets for the shows go on sale, you're more likely to get your first choice. How to keep on track of when things are going on sale? Why, by staying in touch with your dear devoted WhatsOnStage of course. Sign up to our mailing list in the header bar above to get notifications of when you can buy tickets for new shows.
Become a member
Yes, this does involve shelling out before you even come to the ticket buying stage, but this hack is all about long-term thinking. Places like the National and Almeida Theatres, Delfont Mackintosh, ATG Theatres as well as Shakespeare's Globe, Donmar Warehouse, Birmingham Hippodrome, Curve, Manchester Royal Exchange and the RSC all have yearly membership schemes which will allow you to book before anyone else and thereby have access to the cheaper tickets. Each membership is different, and includes anything from simple priority booking access, to getting exclusive access to cast and creatives in the theatre. The NT's priority membership – the most basic version – is £80 for the year, while the Almeida's Friends scheme starts at £60, DMT is £35, Shakespeare's Globe is £50 and to become a Donmar Friend is £75.
Join the WhatsOnStage Theatre Club
Of course this article wouldn't be complete without a mention for our very excellent Theatre Club. For a small yearly fee, you have behind the scenes access to deals, exclusive events, Q&As, affordable tickets and much, much more. You get the opportunity to reserve tickets for shows listed at special member price and tickets are generally less than you'd be able to buy through the usual channels. So it's a win-win situation. Find out more and sign up here.
Get down with the yoof
It can sometimes be ageist, but generally young people and students have less money than the oldies, so stop getting upset and let's celebrate theatre's inclusivity. If you're aged 16 to 25 chances are there will be theatre tickets available just for you at a very cheap price. Venues like the RSC, Donmar, the National and more all have great schemes to help where necessary. Here's information on a ton of initiatives.
At certain theatres you can turn up to the box office and book as soon as it has opened for the show that night. This option is not for the faint-hearted and can involve getting up extra specially early if it's a particularly in demand production. At the Royal Court, if you're online at 9am on a Monday, then you may be able to bag a £12 ticket to that evening's performance. They also offer a limited number of standing places for 10p (10p!) which go onsale an hour before each performance begins. Many West End theatres offer day seats too – best to check the websites of the shows you're interested in seeing before you head off for the queue. Here's our full guide to day seats.
These are becoming more and more the rage these days, with Hamilton, Harry Potter and the National Theatre all having a lottery in some form or another. With Hamilton, winners are picked at random from a group of people outside the theatre, while Harry Potter and the National Theatre have the online #FridayForty and #FridayRush tickets, where you can get into a virtual queue to buy tickets for the following week. Click here for more information on the big ticket lottery options.
Shakespeare's Globe gets a section all on its own in this article. The Bard base offers £5 groundling tickets to all shows in the main theatre, for anyone, and there are plenty of them too. Being a groundling involves standing at the front of the stage, looking up, for the entire performance. Which can be hard work – especially when there's three-plus hours of Hamlet to get through. But on the positive side, standing that close to the stage in a big crowd really enhances the experience. It's just how they would have done it back when Queen Liz mark-I was on the throne.
Have a big family you want to make more thespy? Kids Week is made for a person like you. It's not a week, it's an entire month – usually August – where theatres across London offer a child aged 16 or under a free ticket with any accompanying adult. Plus parents can buy up to two extra children's tickets at half price. It basically means a trip to the theatre won't bankrupt you. Excellent.
If you don't mind a little bit of leaning to one side to get to see your favourite show, then this may be a good option for you. Many theatres were built with the need for pillars and the designers often neglected to care much about making sure people can see the stage from every seat. But that said, often the views are actually fine and they are much cheaper too. Always check with the box office as to exactly how restricted is restricted, so you are prepared for what you might miss. The Almeida Theatre is an excellent one for restricted view seats.