How to get cheap theatre tickets: Part 2

cheap theatre tickets part 2 Penny GolightlyIn our first cheap theatre tickets article, we looked at previews, cheap seats, cheap nights and day tickets. Now let’s look at:

  • box office returns
  • the many kinds of discounted tickets
  • smaller theatres

Buying ‘returns’

Before any performance, a few people are likely to return their tickets if they can’t attend for whatever reason. The theatre box office usually buys them back for a bit less than face value and then re-sells them. It isn’t anything like as cheap as getting day seats, but you might still score a discount.

Again, do some research with the individual theatre to find out the optimum time to turn up or phone up, and be prepared to queue in person or on the phone.

Buying discounted tickets

There are several ways to get hold of discounted tickets, but you also need to be aware that this is where you may also find scammers, so be careful.

If you have a favourite theatre near you and you’re likely to attend on a regular basis, it might be worth signing up for theatre membership. There are different packages available, but most will give you priority booking, discounts and maybe freebies too. Weigh up the membership fee carefully against the potential savings. Even if you don’t take out membership with your favourite theatre, it’s a good idea to at least get yourself on their mailing list. You are likely to be sent useful information and special offers.

Most theatres also have discounts for students/NUS cardholders, and may offer discounts for pensioners and those on benefits. There are also youth schemes around the UK that offer price-capped tickets to the under-25s at certain times of year. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Buying directly in person from a theatre’s box office tends to save you on booking fees and postage charges. If you are nice and polite to the staff, they are also much more likely to find you something at a good price.

Away from the theatres themselves, there are other general discounts that are available to all – but be careful to stick with well-known companies as there are some dodgy ‘agencies’ out there.

For starters, large general entertainment websites like are safe to use and offer a wide range of discounted show tickets. The other big boys include Seetickets, Ticketmaster and Stargreen. Many entertainment review sites such as TimeOut now sell discounted tickets too. Remember to shop around for the best deal, and factor in any additional booking and/or postage fees.

If you’re in London, and going straight to your theatre of choice hasn’t worked, head for the official TKTS booth in either Leicester Square or Westfield. Avoid the other nearby agencies, many of which are not great or even downright untrustworthy. TKTS are the real deal and sell tickets for loads of top shows, usually offering 50% off the best seats or the 2nd best seats. Availability varies from day to day, but drop by and have a look at the offers on the board outside to see if there’s anything you’re interested in.

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full” icon=”none”]PG Tip: Whatever you’re buying, remember to shop around, and ideally check out some reviews of the show too before purchasing.[/box]

Attending smaller theatres

You can find some great offers if you go to see shows at fringe or studio venues. While they may not be big production numbers, you can still see some exciting productions and interesting performers (every famous thesp starts out somewhere), and you do get the occasional famous name turning up too.

Venues vary from rooms upstairs in pubs to secondary performance spaces in famous theatres, and it’s usually less than £10 a pop. It might even be free, or ‘pay what you can’. Some venues have a longstanding reputation for putting on excellent shows, so don’t assume it’s going to be low on quality. If in doubt, check local papers or websites for reviews. Or take a chance, especially if it’s something comedy-based in the run up to the Edinburgh festival.

That’s it for today, but stay tuned for our next article about bargain theatre that’ll be all about how to get ‘comps’, or free tickets.

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  1. Love the smaller theatres. It’s also easier to meet the cast of the plays, when the theatre is part of a pub!

  2. Hi Jacky – that’s definitely something that could be described as a bonus 🙂

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