New York City has Broadway, and London has the West End. It’s an area of the city where you’ll be able to see top end musicals and plays. Unfortunately London can be expensive. There are ways to get cheap theatre tickets in London.
A Tale of Two Trips
The first time I went to London was back in 2008. I was young(er) and more naive when it came to travel. I just wanted to see a show on the West End, and I had a particular musical in mind (Avenue Q, which is no longer running). I bought a ticket in advance at full price. I don’t remember how much I spent, but I’m sure it was at least £60 (about $100CAD).
This time I went and saw two shows for a combined total of £30 ($50). Here’s what I did different from my previous trip.
What I Saw
I saw two shows in London. First was a play called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s based on a book of the same name by Mark Haddon and adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens. I also saw the musical Funny Girl. It debuted on Broadway in 1964 and later became a movie with Barbra Streisand.
More About The Shows
I’d read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time before and was curious to see how it translated as a play. It was fantastic The way they integrate the set into the show was brilliant. The acting was amazing. Without spoiling the ending I will say you’ll want to stay after the curtain call. The show is running at the Gielgud Theatre.
Funny Girl was a musical I’d never seen, but I knew songs like “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “People.” It starred Sheridan Smith, who is an English actress. I wasn’t familiar with her work, but she was great as was the rest of the cast. This is a classic romantic-comedy musical with lots of singing and dancing. While it had some serious moments it was a pretty fun musical. Funny Girl has a limited engagement at The Savoy Theatre until October 2016.
How to Save on Theatre Tickets in London
To get these cheap theatre tickets I bought stall or day tickets. These are last minute tickets that you buy at the box office the day of the show. With stall tickets your seats will be right in the stall section of the theatre. These seats are usually right down on the main floor, often in the first rows.
Things to Know About Stall Tickets
- Not every show will have stall tickets. Check the show’s website to see if stall tickets are still available.
- Your best bet to get stall tickets is to show up at the box office when it opens in the morning. If you wait til later they may not have any stall tickets at the discounted price.
- The seats may have an obstructed view. Make sure to ask the box office attendant if this will affect your experience with the show. I had a partial obstructed view for Funny Girl from the overhang of the balcony. Luckily for that show I could still see all the performers on stage.
- A front row seat might seem ideal, but know the stage is up higher than you’re sitting. Chances are you’ll have to crane your neck a bit to see the show. This is what happened for me when watching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. There was also a lot of movement that was on the ground level for that play. A big upside was an intense scene between two of the characters played out mere inches in front of me.
- You’ll need cash or credit card to buy the tickets. You’ll also need to give your name and phone number (your number back home works fine) to get the tickets.
- Theatres in London are older and may not be accessible for everyone. Talk to the box office attendant if you need an accessible seat before buying your ticket.
No Stall Tickets?
If stall tickets are not available there are few other options for cheap theatre tickets in London
- The Lottery. Some shows will have a lottery, where you show up at the box office and write your name down to win tickets to the show. If you win you can buy a reduced ticket (usually around £15) for the show. Not every show has a lottery and how you enter may vary, so make sure to check the show’s website. With a lottery you will need to pay in cash, and you can usually only win two tickets. You’re also not guaranteed to win, so you have to decide if you want to take that chance.
- Purchase Discount Tickets from TKTS. In Leicester Square is a TKTS Booth. It has discounted tickets for various shows in London. Their website will tell you what shows are available, but this can change daily. TKTS charges a small service fee of £3 on top of the discounted ticket price. They are a not-for-profit organisation and this fee goes to promoting the arts.
- Check a publication/website like Time Out London or London Theatre. They may list shows that have discounted tickets available. And check the website for the theatre or show itself. A matinee ticket might be available for a lower price than what you’d pay on a Friday night
- Be open to seeing something off the West End or in a Fringe Venue. London is a huge city and there’s a variety of great theatre everywhere. You don’t have to see a big West End show to see theatre in London.
- Edit: Get the Today Tix app. It’s available for several cities including London. My coworker suggested this after his friends went to London and used it with great success. You can get cheap tickets for West End shows by signing up for an account with the app. If a ticket is available just use your credit card to pay and you’ll be given a confirmation, which you can exchange for your ticket at the box office. You can even use this app to enter for show lotteries, without having to queue outside in the rain or cold for hours. It’s the easiest way to get cheap tickets, which I ended up used twice on my 2017 London trip. If you use the promo code JGZYL you’ll save £10 off your first purchase so your tickets will be even cheaper. Winner winner.
Have you seen any shows in London?