There is a common misconception that a night out at the theatre is unaffordable for us mere mortals. Well, maybe I can’t get you into the Royal Box (oo-er) but you shall go to the ball, Cinderella and Cinderfella!
Here are some great ways to see great plays on a shoestring budget. I’m starting today with:
- Preview shows
- Sitting in the cheap seats (or even standing)
- Going on ‘cheap night’
- Buying day tickets
Going to preview shows
Before a big long-running show gets going in earnest, they usually hold previews. If you haven’t been to one before, these are full performances of the show, and they’re available to attend on most nights for limited period of about a week or two before the advertised show starts ‘properly’.
They aren’t always heavily advertised, but sign up for news and gossip from one or two good stage websites or blogs, and you’ll soon know which big hot ticket shows are coming to town over the next few weeks and months. Then you’ll be ready to grab yourself some cheap preview tickets.
For example, preview tickets for the hotly-anticipated stage production of The Commitments were on sale last month at Lastminute.com, with prices starting from £6.50 – I’ve booked for a weekend night a few days into the run. Now I have to be patient and wait for the Autumn when it starts. Something nice to look forward to…
[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]PG Tip: Previews are usually highly enjoyable to attend from the first night onwards, but if you’re worried then give them a week or so to let the show really get into its stride.[/box]
Sit in the cheap seats
As you might expect, the better the view, and the comfier the upholstery, the more expensive the seat is. However, I would rather enjoy a great show from the cheap seats than not see it at all and miss out. It’s up to you how cheap you want to go, and what you will or won’t put up with.
It is definitely worth doing some research before buying restricted view seats, as some of them do represent excellent value for money. One of the most reliable ways to do this for London Theatres is by checking the theatre seat ‘buy or avoid’ plans on the TheatreMonkey website – they will give you an honest seat-by-seat review of exactly which seat and row numbers to ask for.
[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]PG Tip: Word to the wise, not all cheap seats are created equal. Some are hard wooden benches, some are standing room only (no seat at all), some have restricted legroom, some are three floors up miles above the stage, and some have restricted views (some of which are massively obscured and others are barely restricted at all).[/box]
Go on the theatre’s ‘cheap night’
Most theatres around the UK have at least one performance each week that’s cheaper than the rest, and it follows the principle of supply and demand. As theatres tend to be less busy on, say, Monday evenings or Wednesday matinees, the tickets are usually cheaper then too.
For example, The Royal Court Theatre in London has a longstanding tradition of selling tickets for all seats in the house for £10 on Mondays, including the best seats. The Donmar Warehouse sells front row tickets for £10 at 10am on Mondays too, and the National Theatre regularly has a sponsored deal where tickets are £12.
Buy day tickets (AKA day seats)
Many popular shows give you the opportunity to buy massively reduced price same-day tickets. These are usually made available first thing in the morning at the theatre’s box office, for use the same evening. Be prepared to get there early and queue, and take some picture ID with you if possible as many theatres have put strict anti-tout measures in place.
It isn’t guaranteed. Only a limited number of tickets will be released each day, and on some days there may be none at all – but if it’s a great show then it’s worth the risk.
For example, right now on most days there are 10 to 20 day tickets available for the hugely successful ‘The Audience’, which stars Helen Mirren and has pretty much sold out for the rest of its run. They’re mostly for the front row stalls, right by the stage, and they go for a tiny £10 – other tickets in that area are usually sold for around £100+, so it’s a steal.
[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]PG Tip: You’d be amazed at how many big theatres do day tickets, even if their show is officially sold out. Check the show’s website or the theatre’s website, or ask the staff nicely at the box office outside of peak hours to get the lowdown.[/box]
So that’s the first few ways to buy cheap theatre tickets. The next cut price tickets article will include box office returns, the many ways to find discounted theatre tickets, fringe theatre, ways to get ‘comps’ and more. Read How to get cheap theatre tickets: Part 2.