Home » West End Tickets » How to find cheap or free tickets for London Theatres

How to find cheap or free tickets for London Theatres

London Theatre MasksBuying tickets to see a show can be expensive but it doesn’t always have to be. If you have to travel into London there isn’t much that can be done about the cost of travel but if you are trying to keep the cost of theatre tickets to a minimum then check out the following on how to find cheap or free theatre tickets: Advance Bookings, Buy On The Day, Concessions, Discounted Tickets, Face Value, Group Bookings, Mid-Week Matinees, Off-West End, Reviews, Social Networks, Special Offers, Previews and STAR.

Advance bookings
One way to buy the cheapest tickets for a show is to book several months in advance, especially if there are a number of cheaper seats available for early bookings. If it is a very popular show at least with this method you have your booking secured and won’t be panicking nearer the time. The possible downside (although unlikely for a very popular show) is that there may be cheaper seats available closer to your chosen date when you want to go to the theatre. This advanced booking option would probably be best suited for a popular show.

Buy on the day
Okay, the main problem with this, is that you cannot always guarantee that you will manage to buy a ticket to see the show that you have your heart set on. It is great if you are in London for the day and are prepared to take a chance and also get to the theatre early to be close to the front of the (potential) queue. However, some people buy their tickets on the day of the show and make their travel arrangements to suit that, but if you want advance peace of mind this option may not be for you.

Where to buy the cheapest tickets on the day of the performance that may be for the front row? Okay, essentially there are two main options. Most shows will offer ‘Day Seat’ tickets with a selected number of cheaper seats available on the day of the show. Be prepared to get there early as I have read of queues for some shows starting to form overnight. In the summer it isn’t unusual to see a queue at 8:00am for popular shows.

The second place to get cheaper tickets on the day is at the Society of London Theatre Official Leicester Square Half Price Theatre Ticket Booth.

The first two options here will give you the best chance of getting some of the cheapest tickets that might be available for a particular show, with day seats often in the front row. But for general sale tickets you can usually also book online up to within an hour of show-time and for shows that are not fully booked there may be discounted or cheaper tickets still available, although likely to be for the Upper Circle or Balcony and not the front row as with a ‘day seat’.
Returns can often be bought from the theatre’s box office, arising from people who have cancelled their booking at the last minute. It is worth checking at the theatre on the day to see if there are any returns available at a cheaper price.

The final option to buy on the day is for personal callers to the box office who are over 60, unemployed, a full-time student or a theatre union member. Most London theatres have a standby rate selling unsold seats for about 70% discount, and usually an hour before the show. Take relevant valid ID student cards or pension book / entitlement card. If in doubt then contact the theatre beforehand.

Published three times a year, the Access London Theatre guide features audio-described, captioned and signed performance listings for London and is available in large print, Braille, audio tape and CD.
There are various concession schemes related to age and here are a few:

New Vic Under 26

National Theatre Aged 16-25 £5 tickets to all NT productions www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

For cheaper tickets for young people and a Kids Week then check out the GILT scheme at www.getintolondontheatre.co.uk

Many theatres offer discounts for registered disabled theatregoers, as well as the person accompanying them. The main West End theatres usually have designated seating for disabled theatregoers. Visit Access London Theatre for further details. www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/access/

Discounted Tickets and Special Offers
All West End shows have tickets at various prices including a range of discounted tickets, but the key factors to look for are a) where are the seats situated and b) how much of a discount is there. How much you want to pay and where you want to sit is a choice that you have to make. When there are discounted tickets available for ‘good’ seats then these are likely to go fairly quickly, so you have to keep a look-out for ‘special’ offers if and when they become available. Our ticket supplier has continual offers and also weekly special offers which are worth looking out for.  Across a wide range of ticket suppliers it is unlikely that you will find a large quantity of discounted tickets for the best selling shows. Quite simply if a show has a full house (or close to) every night then they don’t need to discount their tickets, beyond their allocation of day seats etc.

Face Value
The face value is the basic price printed on a ticket which the event’s producer, venue or promoter has set before the addition of any booking fees, service charges or other extra costs. Generally, tickets are sold by a venue’s box office to personal customers at face value but most other methods of sale (online, by phone or through an agent) will incur a booking fee or service charge in addition to the face value.

Group Bookings
Most theatre ticket websites will have an option to book for a group and the discounts available for group bookings will vary depending on the ticket supplier, the show and the number of people in the group. Usually it is a case of emailing or telephoning for a quote. For our own website the group bookings are available on each show page and are for groups of 11+.

Mid-Week Matinees
Due to work commitments or travel arrangements, the majority of people will want to go to the theatre on a Friday night or at the weekend and this in turn makes the ticket prices generally higher at the weekends. The next option for most people is during the evening from Monday to Friday. This leaves the Mid-Week Matinees as being one potential option for ‘offers’ to be available. Matinee offers will again depend on the show.

Off-West End
There are about 40-50 major venues in the West End of London with shows on each week. For Off-West End you can at least double this number. You might not have the benefit of being seated in one of the iconic London theatres or watching one of the ‘headline’ shows, BUT there are many fabulous productions to see at a fraction of the cost of West End shows. If you haven’t ventured Off-West End then you really should. Check out www.offwestend.com

Quite a few websites that sell tickets also have reviews written for them. IF you have the ability to write a good review then you could always suggest yourself as being a reviewer. You are likely to have to show ‘evidence’ of your writing skills but it could be an opportunity to see a number of shows for the ‘cost of writing a review’.

Social Networks
Whether we like it or not Twitter and Facebook, along with other social networking sites are most likely here to stay. This can provide opportunities for free, cheap or much sought after tickets becoming available for you. The simple matter is that if you interact with other like-minded people then you are likely to be on the scene if someone else can’t go to the theatre and have a ticket or two that they need to off-load. Likewise, if there are special offers that become available then others might hear about it first and pass the news on.

Most London West End shows have a period for previews, where the musical or play is performed to audiences before any reviews have been written about the show. This gives the opportunity for the producers to change anything that may not be working as they would like and for them to see the audience’s reaction to the show. Scenes may be re-written or removed, but often only minor changes will occur, and the show will stay much the same during the previews as it is on press night and after the preview period. It is usual for tickets to be cheaper during previews.

STAR  is an acronym for the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers. It is the leading self-regulatory body for the entertainment ticketing industry across the United Kingdom, with many of the biggest names in ticketing as members. STAR members include major UK ticket agencies as well as numerous venues and box offices in London and across the country. STAR operates within guidelines supported by, amongst others, the Society of London Theatre and the Office of Fair Trading.

I hope that you find the information useful on “How to find cheap or free London Theatre Tickets”.

Article written by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

Please add your comments with any suggestions to add to the above!

Saturday 2nd March 2013


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

    View all posts
Scroll to Top