Going to the theatre, especially in London, can be an expensive hobby, but if you have the know-how, you can get to see top plays and musicals for very affordable prices. Ranging from venues giving away tickets to fill seats, last-minute discounts, membership deals, and a lot of offers for younger people, theatres can offer a fairly cheap night out.

All if you’re willing to be a bit flexible in what you go for or the dates you want.

Regular Offers

Two of London’s main theatre ticket sellers routinely have special offers on selected shows. The offers range from modest, such as no booking fees, up to pretty good, such as better than half price on seats. The range of offers is usually limited to the big headline shows, and they change quite regularly, so best to bookmark this page and check the two links below when you want to buy some theatre tickets.

First, London Theatre Direct tends to have fewer deals, but they often have better exclusive prices.

Second, Theatre Tickets Direct generally has more offers to choose from, but check London Theatre Direct first, as the prices tend to be better there.


Seat filler tickets

The dark secret of the theatre world is that theatres often give away free seats to people to fill empty spaces so that the theatre feels full. This is done for a number of reasons, from comedies needing louder laughs from the audience to struggling plays wanting to fill the seats so the show appears more popular than it is – this affects word of mouth recommendations and the like.

They’re also often very last-minute offers, so flexibility is the key.

Because they’re free, if you are given a seat-filler ticket, you’re expected to stay for the full performance, no sneaking out if you get bored or are stuck in a bad seating position, and failure to turn up to a free show can see you being banned from getting any more free tickets. There’s a very strict list of rules that have to be followed, as you’ll be sitting in a free seat, likely surrounded by people who paid full price and won’t appreciate you blabbing about your freebie. A bit like free tickets given out to TV and radio shows, you’re also expected to at the very least join in a bit in the laughter and applause moments.

It’s a bit of a nuisance to keep tracking seat filler seats by contacting each venue, so a number of membership schemes exist to take the hassle out of it.

There’s Play by Play, which charges a £45 membership fee, and there’s a per-ticket process fee of £1-£3, but that’s all you pay for the tickets. This is likely the best one if you’re an avid theatre-goer as the booking fees are cheaper than the other firms.

Another supplier is Central Tickets, who charge £4-£6.50 per ticket, but there’s no membership fee so long as you book at least one ticket a year. They also send out a daily email with last minute ticket offers.

The Audience Club charges a £5 joining fee, and then about £3 per ticket, but quite restrictive in their membership.

There’s ShowFilmFirst, which despite its name, does offer seat filler tickets for the theatre with a booking fee that starts from £2.50. As their name suggests, they also offer film preview seats, mainly for audience feedback about the film to go to the editors before the film is released.

Finally, MyBox Office charges £15 per year, and then has a small booking fee for the free tickets.

Niche offer – if you work for the NHS or the emergency services, then Blue Light Tickets gets tickets that are offered by venues or sponsors for key workers.

Disney Shows

If you want to take in any of the musicals in London that are based on Disney films, then they have a Magical Monday deal where a number of tickets for that week’s performances will be offered for £25 at noon on Mondays each week.

You need to have an account on the Disney website, so I’d recommend signing up or logging in before the tickets are released, to avoid any hassles with lost passwords and the like.

At the time of writing, the shows in London are The Lion King, Frozen the Musical and Beauty and the Beast.

Details here


Almeida Theatre

A smaller Islington based theatre offers last minute tickets at 1pm every Tuesday for performances the following week. The discounts vary depending on demand and don’t include all their plays. But if they have a play you want to see, waiting until Tuesday for their “rush” tickets can save you money.

Details here


English National Opera

The ENO has a number of deals available to reduce the cost of buying tickets to the opera.

First ticket – you can join their ENO First scheme, and your first visit to the opera is just £25 for seats in the dress and upper circles for selected performances. It’s a scheme that’s designed to make sampling the opera an affordable introduction.

Details here

Bulk buys – if you buy tickets for more than one show, they offer a scaling range of discounts from 5% off two shows to 20% off five or more shows.

Details here

Membership – if you join their members scheme (currently £65), then you can get priority booking on tickets, but also save up to 25% on ticket prices, and no booking fee on all other tickets.

Details here

For people aged 21-35, you can join their Under-35 scheme, which is free, and then you can book two discounted opera tickets per production. Tickets are usually £35 in the Stalls, £25 in the Dress Circle and £15 in the Upper Circle.

Details here

For people aged 20 and under, there are free tickets on offer – details in the students section below


Her Majesty’s Theatre – Phantom of the Opera

They regularly release a number of tickets for £30 each morning at 10am for performances that same evening. To get them you have to register for an email alert, that sends a link when they have unsold tickets for that evening’s performance.

Details here


Old Vic

For the first five preview performances of each show they put on, the Old Vic reserves half the seats for just £10 per ticket. Look for the PWC seats in the seating plans when booking.

Details here


National Theatre

Most Friday lunchtimes, they release a load of unsold tickets for next week’s performances for just £10 each.

The way it works is that at 1pm on Fridays, a countdown timer on the National Theatre’s Friday Rush page becomes a button and you press it to be allocated a random number in the queue. If the number is below 100, you stand a decent chance of getting some cheap theatre tickets.

To make the booking process as quick as possible, they recommend you register for an account in advance. If you already have an account, have your username and password to hand – or better still, log in first to ensure it’s all working.

Details here


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

This works best if you’re a regular at this theatre, as there’s an annual membership scheme for £50, that then gets you £10 off each ticket bought. Note, you can buy up to 6 tickets per show, so works better if you’re attending with family or friends.

Members also get priority booking, which is very useful for getting the best seats but also to save money.

Details here

They also have an offer for young people – details below.


Royal Court Theatre

The Sloane Square based theatre offers cheaper tickets to their Monday performances, and tickets are released at 9am on the Monday morning.

Tickets are usually just £12 each, and the tickets that are offered are the ones not taken up by their members. If possible, log in or create an account prior to 9am to speed up the process.

Tickets are limited to 2 per person.

Details here


Royal Opera House

Similar to the National Theatre, the ROH also offers a Friday Rush that releases tickets for forthcoming performances.

There are some offers, but it’s a bit hit and miss as to whether you’re getting a bargain, or just a chance to grab tickets at full price for an otherwise sold-out show.

Details here


Shakespeare’s Globe

If you don’t mind standing, the Globe Theatre was designed in authentic style with the ground floor in front of the stage for standing only — and tickets are just £5 per person. This is for all performances.

That compares to £25-£64 for the seating area around the sides of the theatre.

Apart from the bargain price, you’re experiencing Shakespeare as he intended most people to, standing in front of the stage.

Details here


Southwark Playhouse

If you want to attend regularly, they offer 5 tickets for £60 which can be used on almost any of their shows, although there’s a limit of two tickets per show, so it’s not a way of getting cheap tickets for a group.

On the upside, they don’t have an expiry date so you can use the tickets over a few years if necessary.

Details here


Young Vic

The Young Vic sells the entire house at £5 for the first preview of each Main House production.

They also offer a lucky-dip to upgrade their £10 standing-only tickets to sitting. These are only offered on select productions where standing room is available, so you can spend a fair bit of time clicking around dates and shows to find them.

They also offer a small number of £10 and £20 seats each day from 4pm (or 1pm for matinee performances) if you turn up at the box office in person.

Details here


Offers for young people/students

Barbican Arts Centre

If you’re aged 14-25, the Young Barbican scheme offers tickets across art, film, music, theatre and dance for £5, £10 or £15 with new film releases at just £5. You can book up to two tickets – one for you and one for a friend.

You need to join the Young Barbican scheme, but it’s free, and they also don’t charge booking fees on other shows you want to attend.

Details here


English National Opera

 

The ENO has two packages for younger people.

For people aged 5-15, up to two tickets are free when accompanying a full price paying adult.

Details here

For people aged 16-20, this is a totally free scheme, and you can apply for one free ticket for every production.

Details here


Hampstead Theatre

For people aged under 30 years old, they offer a limited number of tickets for £10 per performance. You just book tickets as usual and bring proof of age when you arrive.

Details here


Masterclass

For people aged 16-30, they offer tickets for £5. It’s mainly aimed at people wanting to work in the trade, but is open to everyone, and many of the classes are free if you want to get an insight into how acting works.

Details here


Mousetrap scheme

A free membership scheme for people aged 15-24 that offers discounted tickets to a range of mainly off-west-end performances, with new releases sent out by email once a fortnight.

Tickets are offered at £7 for people aged 15-18, and £12 for people aged 19-24. You can buy up to four tickets, so long as everyone is in the same age range as you.

Details here


National Theatre

For people aged 16-18, you can book tickets for just £5, and if aged 19-25, you can book tickets for £10 per performance.

No need to join any schemes, just buy the tickets and bring proof of age when attending the show.

Details here


Kids Week

This runs annually in August. An adult paying the full ticket price for themselves can bring one child for free, and two more children for half-price.

Details here


Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

For people aged 18-25, pay a one-off membership fee of £10, and then you can buy tickets for the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s Thursday matinees for just £10 each.

They also sometimes offer selected evening performances as well for £10 per person.

In addition, if you can get a group of 10 or more together, you can get the best available tickets for £16.50 – valid on all Monday-Thursday evenings and Thursday matinee performances during the season.

Details here


Royal Opera House

For people aged 16-25, there is a scheme offering tickets at £25 per show, with 200 tickets reserved for Saturday Matinee and every performance on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

You can book up to 2 tickets per show.

There are also some shows with amphitheatre seats from as little as a quid per person.

Details here


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Article last updated: 8 July 2022 11:16

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7 comments
  1. Nima says:

    ENO also has a fabulous scheme for those aged under 35 offering a handful of significantly discounted tickets to each performance (ranging in price from £15-35)

  2. formertheatrefan says:

    This is rare. You’re not supposed to publicise specific seat-filler sites. Guardian etc never do. Nor do theatre blogs I’ve seen. As Ian says, you get all sorts of threats. You shouldn’t pay for a ticket then not turn up unless you don’t mind being thrown off the site. It’s worthwhile if you can choose your own seat (if seating applies). It’s not if you can’t (happens most of the time). Too much risk. You can be allocated the worst seats in the house and only save a few quid. Sometimes you’ll be emailed tickets a day in advance; sometimes you have to pick up just before start time. Not worth it. Never forget London theatres sell god-awful seats.

    NT. “release a load of unsold tickets…”. Not quite right I think as they hold back some tickets for sold-out productions. Number of Friday rush tickets varies greatly and if a show is not selling well, can be almost the best seats in the house.

    I have never known the ROH to discount Friday rush.

    • ianVisits says:

      “You’re not supposed to publicise specific seat-filler sites. Guardian etc never do.” <-- A few seconds on a popular website search engine will find an article in the Guardian about seat filler sites.

  3. formertheatrefan says:

    ‘There are also some shows with amphitheatre seats from as little as a quid per person.’

    £1? No. £2-6 possibly. Opera: You’ll see almost nothing at all from the end of the Upper slips over the stage. Apart from a birds-eye view of the orchestra. These are what are called in German Hörplätze (places at which you’re only interested in listening to an opera to follow the score youve brought along ) and what the ROH misleadingly call restricted view. Restricted view at the roh can mean anything from full-view to no view at all. Ballet is weird from anywhere in the upper slips. The overlooking, side-view, angled perspective is all wrong. From the cheapest seats, you may see the odd leg fly past occasionally. Worthless.

    • ianVisits says:

      The ROH website is advertising seats from £1 for shows at the moment.

  4. Lee says:

    Thanks for this Ian.
    I’ve had some great seats through Central Tickets and the other sites you’ve mentioned, plus for music festivals through Central.
    Signing up for Time Out emails is also a way of occasionally getting discounted tickets for the Royal Opera House. For selected dates you get a choice of seats, including top price ones, for £50 each. I recently had top price seats for Don Pasquale and Madame Butterfly.
    TodayTix has some good offers, plus they run the £10 ticket lottery for Hamilton, daily dozen and daily rush tickets for selected shows, including for sold out shows. Had a lot of great seats from here too for £20 – £25.
    Officiallondontheatre.com run the online TKTS service – same as the ticket booth in Leicester Square Gardens. These have some discounted advance tickets, but mainly the place to find good discounts for on the day tickets.

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