How to get cheap theatre tickets: London tips, tricks and secrets
The theatre experts and addicts at Culture Whisper share tips for getting the best theatre deals and discounts
Common sense and the trick of time and place
You'll save the most money if you stay open minded and consider timings and genres. Large-scale musicals will always be more expensive than a two-person drama – just think of the cost of paying for a fleet of tap-dancers and a full band. Similarly Saturday nights and school holidays won't need discounts to boost sales.
Get to know some of London's more reasonably priced theatres, too. Covent Garden's small, cool Donmar Warehouse has a maximum price of £40 and a reputation for attracting some of the brightest stars. The National Theatre's subsidised tickets range from £15-67, as do the tickets for the new Bridge Theatre.
For around £10-45 The Royal Court, Almeida, Southwark Playhouse and Young Vic Theatres have a terrific track record of premieres that end up impressing on the West End, Broadway and beyond. And there's always £5 Groundling tickets at Shakespeare's Globe.
The Almeida Theatre in Islington
The early bird catches the worm: cheap preview tickets
Try something new and venture where the critics have yet to tread by booking for a show in previews. When a show first opens, before the reviewers are invited to give their verdict, there is a preview period. It varies from the first few nights to three months (for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) .
Previews tend to cheaper by around 10-20%. Advertising is expensive, so shows want to get plenty of people in the door to spread the
Of course the trick to booking preview shows is to know what's coming up well in advance. By the time you read the reviews, it's to late. And that's exactly what Culture Whisper's for; we write about the most exciting theatre as soon as it's announced.
Browse through our listings of all the best upcoming shows here.
But it's never too late to save with day tickets and last minute deals
With most shows, last minute lads and ladies can get £10-25 tickets for the performance that evening. Theatres hold back seats so they can sell them on the day, just as restaurants keep space for walk ins. The only stipulation is that you need to be at the theatre box office in person at 10am and you will be limited to two tickets. The bigger, buzzier shows tend to have a decent queue by 9am, too. The days following a flurry of five-star reviews or right at the end of the run tend to be the busiest so plan you day tactically.
It is possible to get bargain tickets to even the most hyped, sold out shows in London – but you'll need a little luck. Hamilton has a day ticket lottery via the app and every Friday at 1pm the Harry Potter plays release forty £20 tickets for the following week.
It's worth setting up a free account for the National Theatre so you can enter Friday Rush to nab £20 last minute tickets the next week's shows. And set reminders on Mondays for cheap Royal Court tickets released at 9am and short notice Donmar Warehouse tickets at noon.
National Theatre Friday Rush
Take a Gamble with Half Price Huts
You can also save money by booking through a third party. While there are plenty of discount sites online, the best method is to turn up in person to the half price hut, otherwise known as the TKTS booth in the centre of Leicester Square. It's run by the official Society of London Theatre so there's no risk of scams or fake tickets. You must book in person, but there are always plenty of offers to choose from with discounts of up to 50%. Turn up at 10am for first pick, or swing by at the very last minute to see what offers are left.
It's easy to dismiss half price hut as the tourists' stomping ground, but it's a reliable way to see those shows you've seen plastered over billboards for the last few years. Typically it's a selection of West End classics and musicals, so this is a good bet if you're hoping to save on seeing Lion King or Les Mis.
But you can't rely on discounts for specific shows, so TKTS booth is best for when you want to enjoy an affordable evening at the theatre, but you're not fussy about what you see.
TKTS booth, Leicester Square
Fun for the young with Under 26 discounts
Millennials may not be able to buy houses, but we can at least afford the theatre thanks to a vast selection of schemes making theatre tickets cheaper than a round of drinks in the pub. It's easy enough to book, but ID and proof of age must be produced when collecting tickets for box office (any thirty-somethings attempting to save money will be charged the full ticket price).
Tickets cost nothing at the Donmar, where those age 25 and under can join the Young + Free mailing list to ballot for free tickets.
Each day there are £5 day tickets to Matilda the Musical, which must be booked in person at the theatre box office. Entry Pass at the National Theatre is free to join, gets you £5 tickets and £7.50 second tickets for your similarly youthful pal. Young Barbican is also free to join and includes £5-15 tickets to Barbican shows (along with exhibitions and cinemas).
You can also get young person's tickets ranging from £5 to £15 at The Young Vic, The Old Vic, The Bridge Theatre, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre,