Trips to the theatre are a fantastic treat – but you needn’t limit yourself to one or two trips a year because the tickets are so expensive.
When you reduce working hours or retire completely, you’ve got a bit more time and can be more flexible with when you visit the theatre – which means you can access the very best deals.
There are lots of hidden ways to find discounted tickets. You just have to know where to look. Here are our top tips to bagging bargain theatre tickets.
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Sign up to your local theatre membership scheme. If you visit regularly, this could save you money. But weigh up the costs before you decide. As well as possible discounts, other benefits may include priority booking on popular shows, free tickets or backstage chats with the cast.
Some businesses also run loyalty membership programmes for their customers.
Book your theatre tickets online
The internet is a great tool for finding cut-price deals on performances.
Check out websites such as cheaptheatretickets.com and lovetheatre.com.
Sign up to mailing lists to get first dibs on discounts and special offers. Websites also make it easy to see the cheapest options whether they be a weekday or matinee performance.
You can also go direct to the theatres for good deals. For example, The National Theatre in London offers discounts for senior citizens on midweek matinees. For Olivier and Lyttelton productions, £52 and £39 tickets are reduced by £20. For Travelex productions, save £10 on £45 and £40 tickets. And for Dorfman productions, £30 tickets are available.
To book online, click on an eligible seat or seats from the seating plan to select it. You can then choose a concession price by clicking on the “Selected tickets” bar that appears above the seating plan.
Booking in person
Equally, you might get a better deal by going directly to your local theatre to see if they offer discounts to seniors. As with many concessions, these aren't often advertised. To check, just call or drop into your local theatre and ask about concessionary ticket prices. Going direct also means that you save on booking, processing and delivery fees, as well as any extra third party costs you might encounter by booking online.
Many local theatres offer standby tickets on the day, either returns or unsold tickets, at a reduced rate. Each theatre will have different rules, so check directly.
Book a package deal
Offers online can be good value for money if you choose a hotel and show deal, or hotel, show and dinner package.
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Take the train for discounts on tickets
If you travel by train on certain networks, you can get up to 60% off theatre tickets, upgrade to premium tickets, or even 2 for 1 tickets for some performances.
Find our more about National Rail’s deals on the DaysOutGuide
Last minute in London?
Try your luck at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. Here you can buy last minute and discounted theatre tickets for performances on the same day, and up to two days in advance. You can only buy tickets in person but the website displays what’s on offer. The discounts vary but we found a £75 seat in the stalls to see Les Miserables for just £45 – a juicy 40% saving.
You might also want to visit The Globe which offers £5 standing tickets. 700 are reserved for every show. Remember that The Globe is open, so you’ll be exposed to all the elements, but you’ll be able to see Shakespeare in the most “authentic” production you're likely to find, and the atmosphere is terrific. If you can’t bear to stand, stretch to £17 and you’ll be able to sit.
Ticket scams and rip-offs are rife, particularly when fraudsters and touts know that demand surges at certain times of year or for sold-out events.
Many secondary ticketing sites operate illegally, selling tickets to events that will not allow access to second-hand ticketholders. Steer well clear of them – the Government's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee warned in its March 2019 Report into Live Music that ticket resale platforms are damaging trust in the industry.
In an unusual step, the Committee warned consumers not to use the Viagogo site, stating that it "has yet to prove itself a trustworthy operator given its history of resisting compliance, court orders and parliamentary scrutiny, and flouting consumer law… It is imperative that the Competition and Markets Authority acts promptly and decisively to bring Viagogo into line with consumer law and, until it does so, we advise the public not to buy or sell tickets via Viagogo.”
If in doubt, find out if the site is a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR). This will protect you against bogus operators. STAR has a code of practice and conciliation service to help to resolve any complaints about members.
Check the legitimacy of the website too. Before you type in any card details, check that you are on a secure page. The address should start with https (the “s” stands for secure) and there should be a locked padlock icon in the address bar. And, of course, you should never reply to unsolicited emails from unfamiliar ticket sellers.
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