London: How to find cheap and free theater tickets
As part of EuroCheapo’s new series on “Budget Culture,” I’ve been scouring the streets of London to find out how wallet-conscious Cheapo’s can enjoy London’s lively theater scene on the cheap. You’ll be glad to hear that the options are plentiful, so there’s no excuse not to get cultured in London!
Discounted West End tickets
If your heart is set on a big-budget West End show, don’t be disheartened by the often shockingly high ticket prices quoted on theater websites. There are still plenty of ways to bag a bargain ticket, particularly if you’re flexible with which show you see.
Leicester Square is littered with cheap ticket shops, but make your first stop TKTS, the only official discount ticket booth run by the Society of London Theatres. TKTS sells lots of half-price and discounted tickets, and the stock is replenished throughout the day (so you don’t have to be in the queue at 9 a.m. to secure your seat). The booth is open Monday to Saturday until 7 p.m.
Travelex £12 tickets
Travelex’s partnership with the National Theatre has become one of the most popular affordable passports to theater in London. Seeing a production at the National Theatre should come high up on any theater buff’s wish list. Occupying an iconic space on the South Bank, the National is home to three different auditoriums and produces more than 20 productions a year.
With Travelex, savvy theater-goers can bag one of 95,000 £12 tickets on sale throughout the year. At some performances this equates to almost half the seats! Keep checking the National Theatre website for details about which productions are being offered at £12 and act quickly when you see one you like–they get snapped up quickly! You can book online, over the phone (020 7452 3000) or in person.
Royal Court Theater
Yes, you did read that correctly. Chelsea’s lovely Royal Court Theatre actually sells tickets for just 10p each every day. As you may expect, they’re not the best seats in the house (they’re actually standing tickets with a restricted view), but nonetheless, they will set you back a meager 10p, so you can’t really argue with that.
Four 10p tickets go on sale every day for performances in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs an hour before the performance starts, so get there early to claim your place in the queue. Tickets are sold at one per person.
If you would rather book your seats in advance then opt for the Royal Court’s £10 Mondays, when every ticket for performances in both the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs and Downstairs cost just £10 each. Get online and book your ticket early though, as Monday nights always sell out fast.
The More London Free Festival is a four-month extravaganza of free culture in a fantastic location at The Scoop amphitheater, right by the River Thames at London Bridge. The program runs from June to September and encompasses a mixture of theater, music and film. Details of the 2013 season are due to announced in May, so be sure to keep an eye on the website if you’re visiting London over the summer.
Also check out the program at the Southbank Centre, where free outdoor performances regularly take place over the summer months.
London’s pub theaters are a unique and quirky way to enjoy some culture in a truly relaxed environment, plus tickets are much more reasonably priced than glitzy West End shows. There are countless options and the quality of the performances will vary from production to production, but with tickets costing as little as £6 in some places, it’s worth the gamble.
Some of my favorites are:
• Upstairs at the Gatehouse located above The Gatehouse Pub in pretty Highgate Village.
• The Kings Head Theatre at the back of the Kings Head Pub on Upper Street in Angel.
• The Landor above The Landor pub in Clapham North.
Your London theater tips?
Have another favorite way to score cheap theater tickets in London? Tell us about it in our comments section. Also, stop by our London guide for more budget tips for visiting London.