First, establish Face Value - the original price of the actual ticket. It is the LAW that face value is disclosed separately from any extra fees.
"Dynamic Pricing" means that ticket prices change according to demand at each performance. The current selling price at the time of your search can be found on the theatre's official website (address given on each Theatremonkey information page).
Additionally, Theatremonkey lists the original price of tickets at the time they first went on sale for each show it covers.
Theatre Box Offices
These don't charge any fees - though some pop venues do if you pay by credit card (or by cash, or by whatever they don't want to take without charging - it can vary alas). Theatre box offices are usually open Monday to Saturday 10am to 8pm (often noon onwards if there is a Sunday performance) - but don't try and make an advance booking an hour before a performance - they don't appreciate it and most won't be able to help you as they are too busy with that show's customers. If there are no performances at a theatre at the time, they will direct you to a nearby theatre in the same chain for bookings.
At LW Group, Ambassador Group and Delfont Mackintosh Group Theatres you can usually book in person without extra fee at any theatre in the same chain for any show in any of their other theatres. This at least saves a trek around town. Note, though: Firstly, this service is at box-office discretion. The theatre may decide NOT to sell tickets for other venues for a variety of operational reasons. If they can't, for some reason, please accept this and try the actual venue. Secondly: it isn't advisable to book at one chain's theatres for shows at another chain's theatres! The reason is that even if they allow it, you will pay a booking fee if you do...
Very occasionally, at the last moment, staff might let you have something a little cheaper... you can but ask, but be VERY discreet about it. Maybe, "are there any day seats left, please?" is a good start.
Registered Access Needs Discount
Reader Jay reminded the monkey that almost all theatres offer a generally substantial discount to theatregoers with Government registered access needs, as well as a person accompanying them. The theatres try to allocate the most appropriate seating too, and often deliberately hold certain seats back for sale to those for whom they would be appropriate. Some theatres sell direct to those with these needs, others require that you register (free of charge) with them as an "access" customer on their own list. Not only does it weed out undesirables who simply pose as having a problem ("have my ticket, have my disability" is the monkey view on that one), but it often also lets "access" customers book online on equal footing with all other customers. The National Theatre (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) is a good example of this system.
www.accesscard.org.uk costs £15 for three years. It turns your specific needs into symbols on a (credit card sized) identity card. Many box office computer systems have access to an online version of your card, meaning you can book online as normal but be recognised as having access needs and assisted / given concession rates accordingly.
Over 60, unemployed, full-time student or theatre union member. Most theatres have a standby rate selling unsold seats for about 70% discount an hour before the show to personal callers at the box-office with valid ID like student cards or pension book / entitlement card. Have cash with you, in case they won't take a card. Ask for your preferred seat. It is your money! It is worthwhile as an overseas visitor bringing your ID with you as theatres will often allow, say, an American Senior Citizen on vacation the same discount as a London resident.
A bigger range of shows offers this discount than one imagines. Even top shows often fill their front row with standby users. Best of all, a few theatres will take a pre-booking in advance and allow credit card payment.
For midweek matinees, Senior Citizens can often book ahead even further - check with the box office as this varies according to sales and season. Sometimes applies to Students and jobseekers too - remember to bring proof-of-entitlement I.D. as it is required when collecting tickets.
It is also worth visiting the box office early in the day as standby tickets can go on sale early. This allows the day free without the rush of the One - Hour deadline. If the theatre is sticking to the 'one - hour' rule, still try at two hours before. You will rarely be turned away. If there is no budging, the line will start two hours before anyway, so at least you are first.
A student says,
"'Woman in Black' offers discounts for students if you go to the box office and ask in person (found out by accident the first time I was in London and the box office agent asked if I was a student when I went to purchase tickets). It might require a student ID at the box office agent’s discretion. I don’t know all of the details, but I’ve taken advantage of this twice and gotten fantastic seats in the stalls for £25 (never asked about the rates for the upper levels because the stalls are the best way to experience the show, in my opinion). The last time I purchased these tickets was on January 14, 2019 for the performance on January 15, 2019, so it might be possible to do on the day as well so long as they have tickets left."
One reader even commented,
"Got a great deal (£20 each because I'm a student, and £20 for my mum because she was with me - worth trying to get them to do this)."
Not something that will work regularly, the monkey suspects, but as the reader says, why not give it a try - after all the theatre has to sell the seat or be left with it...
The Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and a few others let EVERYBODY take advantage of standby discounts without having to ask. Trouble is, the best stuff is sold out anyway and at a discount, to mailing list members.
Day Seats, Rush Tickets and Ballots
Increasingly, the trend for holding back seats (as the subsidised companies mentioned above, do) is being followed by the most popular musicals and plays at other venues. Front row stalls (or whatever the box office have left) are held for sale on the day - often more cheaply (some seats may have a slightly restricted view of the stage, particularly where the height of the stage prevents seeing the actors' feet from the front row!).
Day Seats: Returns lines form outside the theatre from around 8a.m, earlier for really hot shows and in summer. Wrap up warm, take refreshments, and be prepared to wait. Make sure that you also take BOTH credit cards AND cash too, to the value of the most expensive tickets (if you are prepared to pay it!). Some box offices insist that you pay with one or the other specifically, depending on the source of the tickets they are selling you.
Rush Tickets and Ballots: Sometimes run by the theatre, sometimes on behalf of the theatre by todaytix.com. With Rush Tickets, the fastest on the app get to snap up cheap tickets on the day of performance at 10am as they go on sale. Pay and collect at the theatre as instructed. With Ballots, fill in the form - usually up to a week ahead, and winners are notified that they can buy tickets within a fixed time frame, between 4 and 24 hours before the show. If you don't want the seats or forget, next person drawn gets them.
If you don't have a smartphone, you can enter online or by email for some lotteries.
A round up appears on this site.
Ticket Booths around London
NOTE THAT AS OF 2020 THIS IS CURRENTLY CLOSED, WITH NO SET RE-OPENING DATE. PLEASE DO NOT BE FOOLED INTO THINKING ANY OTHER BOOTH IS THE SAME.
The official www.tkts.co.uk website is now offering a service. Tickets are released just after midnight for the coming day for available shows and performances for that day only.
In normal times:
The major legitimate cut-price source is the Society of London Theatre Official Leicester Square TKTS Half Price Theatre Ticket Booth. The Website is at OfficialLondonTheatre.com/TKTS . When the page appears, look for the "What's On Sale" option in the top menu. It gives details of what is available up to 2 days ahead. Their Facebook page and Twitter give updates too. Remember, though, to ignore the Twitter Twits who push their own sites on this service. Make sure you only use the genuine TKTS one.
Half Price plus £3 booking fee per seat - no fee on "full price" tickets.
Open 7 days a week (Mon – Sat: 10am – 7pm and Sun: 11am – 4.30pm) you can buy theatre tickets IN PERSON ONLY for performances today, tomorrow and the next day. Check what’s on sale and prices before you queue on the website.
Lines form from around an hour before in Summer, about half an hour in winter. The booth is a large white stand-alone building (with a small clock tower) in Leicester Square near the Hampshire Hotel.
It is NOWHERE ELSE in this area, whatever the tiny shopfronts or arrows down alleys say.
As reader Kathy Sutter, a TKTS fan says -
"Note the real 1/2 price booth all those shops on that side street are NOT even close to really 1/2 price"
The booth also offers a selection of discount tickets for shows in advance, up to 7 days ahead, also some available that day at a smaller discount and a few shows at full price too, allowing those theatres further from the Square a centrally located box office outlet. and giving extra choice.
The choices are on TV screens or laminated boards inserted into a frame to the side of the booth, put up a half hour before the booth opens. Generally it is a mix of long running plays and lesser-known musicals with the odd ballet or opera occasionally; basically anything which has not sold 65% of its tickets for that night. There is a single line for both evening and afternoon performances.
This list changes throughout the day as allocations sell out and new choices are added. One reader reports that if you ask nicely, they will phone the theatre to get extra seats if they are not too busy. The monkey can't verify this will happen all the time - but felt it was useful to know.
A list in the window of the booth itself lists shows they NEVER have tickets for, and your chances of getting one for these shows this week. If you see anything on this list chalked on the main frame, scalpers are at work.
Best stuff goes in the first 15 minutes, and the vast line moves rapidly. The booth accepts cash (Sterling only), MasterCard, Visa and British issued debit cards. They do not take personal cheques, foreign currency or travellers checks. There isn't often a choice of seat locations either, and if they are busy they really don't have time to discuss it, alas. It can be "first off the pile."
Try the booth if you are flexible and always check it before buying anywhere else on the day. It is also worth checking the 'Never Get' notice on arrival in London to rule out certain shows or devise alternative ticket harvesting strategy. A daily list of available shows up to 7 days ahead is also available online at www.tkts.co.uk, which will give some idea of what is on sale before you arrive, and which shows are never sold there.
Also note that on "film premier" days at the various cinemas on Leicester Square, you may have to approach the booth from another direction. Ask a police officer for advice and be prepared to walk around the "long way" (often via an access road from Orange Street) if necessary.
The booth is also equipped as a Ticketmaster Agency outlet, selling advance tickets for all shows and events at agency prices with booking fees. In Leicester Square it may be cheaper to walk to the theatre concerned to make a purchase.
A "Loyalty Card" means that after 6 purchases, stamped on a collectors' card, you get £3 off your next purchase. A draw for theatre tokens is also included with each card. Ask at the theatre booth for details.
Other Ticket Booths
There are hundreds, in shops, shop doorways and... a few genuine ones.
Many of the genuine booths are owned by the same companies that offer discounts online - and will often do a deal on tickets for that day, to get rid of stock the company have and can't sell. They will also usually have access to the same advance ticket offers that companies put online - useful if you are travelling without computer access.
Saturday nights in particular, some agents may be keen to sell tickets at the last moment, as they may have paid for the seats in advance and will take a loss if they are unsold.
See AVOID TOUTS for more information on spotting them, and do look for the S.T.A.R. symbol:
(STAR can be contacted by telephone on 0844 879 4272 or click here for the Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers website.)
Speaking to somebody - either at the theatre or ticket agency - will incur a booking fee, and sometimes the fee will be less online (check both sources if you can).
The box office will always be cheapest if buying a "full price" ticket, though, as they impose the lowest booking fee.
Theatremonkey.com always lists the box office telephone number before any others.
A reader offers the following advice if you are buying your ticket over the telephone direct from the box office, by quoting an advertised special offer reference to them:
"Always state your preferred seat locations first without mentioning the offer and then see what seat is offered. Only when the price is stated should you then say that "I have a special offer!". This invariably means getting a prime seat at a cheap price. I've often found that if you state the offer FIRST then you get offered "second best" seats. Well, I suppose they want to sell the prime seats at full price wherever possible!"
Once, when offers were a new concept, this was a really strong tip. Now, phoneroom staff really hate it as it causes them problems. Producers have become wise to it as discounts became common, and now often impose specific allocations or say certain seats cannot be discounted. Being honest and friendly goes far further than this "trick" now, the monkey finds.
Otherwise, expect to pay £1 to £12 or so booking fee PER TICKET!!! for buying from theatres' own telephone or online reservations service. This is taking liberties, but a personal appearance at the box office costs £5 plus in train fares, so sometimes this monkey goes purple and pays.
Shop around for lower booking fees - some legitimate ticket agents will do a "no booking fee" deal on a particular show for a limited period, undercutting the box office
Check if there is a charge for postal bookings. Sometimes this saves money. An innocently mailed cheque, correct for the full face value of tickets, but not accounting for any booking fee, is seldom returned - especially if a stamped, self addressed envelope is included. This little 'booking fee oversight' saves Theatremonkey banana cash quite often. Sadly, it is now being cracked down on by some, alas... and chains like Delfont Mackintosh don't take cheques at all now.
Otherwise, aside from theatres with their own booking fees, legitimate booking agents normally add a maximum 25% above face value as a booking fee. Some have access to really excellent seats at short notice and Theatremonkey has been known to try pleasing a favourite Monkeyess with tickets from this source.
Please be aware that if an event is cancelled, refunds may be limited to the price of the ticket only, with the 'booking fee' not refunded. This applies particularly to pop concert events.
Theatre chains sometimes charge a lower booking fee to buy full price tickets online than by telephone. Their own websites also may offer discounts - www.lwtheatres.co.uk (for LW Theatres), www.atgtickets.com (for Ambassador Theatres) and www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk (for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres) all do this.
Dozens of ticket agencies also offering deals. Make sure you look for the STAR logo before buying:
DO click on it to verify the agent is genuine.
The best include: Theatremonkey Ticketshop, telephone 020 7420 9778 (0044 207 420 9778 if calling from outside the United Kingdom), Encore Discount Tickets Shop or telephone 0207 400 1253 (they provide theatre ticket sales for a number of companies including lastminute.com and timeout.com too, incidentally), Ticketmaster.co.uk, www.londontheatredirect.com and subsidiary Shows In London or telephone 0871 976 0074 plus www.londontheatrebookings.com, www.lsbo.co.uk and fromtheboxoffice.com.
"Meal plus Theatre Ticket" packages may become available with: Theatremonkey Ticketshop 020 7420 9778 (0044 207 420 9778 if calling from outside the United Kingdom), Encore (telephone 0207 400 1253 / 0044 207 400 1253 if calling from outside the United Kingdom), Shows In London and LondonTheatre Direct.com.
Theatremonkey's Current Special Offers page rounds up all the Online outlets too.
WORTH KNOWING: Be careful of operators buying up of website names that LOOK LIKE, BUT ARE NOT the official theatre website. For example, the official site to buy tickets from the Prince Edward Theatre is that of the owners - delfontmackintosh.co.uk. A search engine result, though, brings up sites like "ThePrinceEdwardTheatre.com" (example, not an actual or genuine site) before the official one in the listing. Sites like the fictional "ThePrinceEdwardTheatre.com" are owned by agents - either STAR members, STAR sub-agents or even touts / scalpers. Whoever, they are NOT the box office website and you'll pay more than you would via the official site. Theatremonkey advises strongly that you check exactly who you are booking through. On its listings pages, the monkey always shows the official sites first, followed by legitimate agents. It urges all guests to take care, as this trend is trapping even the wariest in the jungle.
Official show websites / Social Networking pages
Exclusive discounts may be available via the official website / Facebook, twitter and other networking pages of the show or ticket agents. Worth visiting them and poking around a little - the offers are not always easy to find, and may be hidden behind such links as "booking information" or "news on the show."
Sometimes these are backed up by advertising on Google search engine. It can pay dividends to visit Google, enter a search such as the show's title and / or "London Theatre" and see what appears both in the results list...and the sponsored advertisements at the side of the page. Make sure the agency is legitimate before handing over cash, though.
Sites like www.hotticketoffers.com carry the latest ticket offers for London’s top entertainment online, or sign up for emails. Working with arts venues and theatres they send out weekly ticket offers for on-and-off West End theatre, dance, music, comedy etc.
App Todaytix allows tickets to be bought in 30 seconds or less, 30 days to one hour before show time. Tickets are sold at the best price available, with one of the lowest booking fees in the industry.
The London Ticket Club - www.londonticketclub.co.uk is to offer unique offers and discounts to the best events in London.
General Saving Ideas
Prior to the Opening Night when critics do their worst, the first few performances are often at reduced rate - about £5 a seat less, or sometimes half price / "two seats for the price of one". The absolute earliest performances of new work are sometimes cancelled at short notice, and if they go ahead, shows can be radically altered before opening and full price performances begin. Minimise this risk by attending the last preview possible. You'll get a refund or chance to change your ticket to another performance (if seats are available), but it may prove inconvenient to you of course.
Also worth knowing is that, increasingly, tickets for midweek afternoon performances are being sold more cheaply. Sometimes this is a reduction in price; at other times the seating plan is "re-drawn" to place more seats in a lower than usual price band.
Dynamic Price Discounts
Some theatre chains, including LW, Ambassador and Delfont Mackintosh have "choose your own seat" systems that show the price of all remaining tickets they have. They also use "dynamic pricing" to change the price of tickets according to demand. Sometimes, this (in the monkey's opinion) pathetic policy will sell you a really bad seat at a high price. Sometimes, you win...
...Check about 4 days before you want to go how seats are selling. You may already see a few seats in the rear stalls for less than the original price (check monkey plans for those). Take another check on the next two days, and more cheap seats may emerge. On the day of the show, from 10am onwards, keep checking as often as you can - and when you see something good in the stalls for the price you'd expect to pay for an upper circle seat... pounce.
A reader also noted, in September 2015, that he was offered far better seats, cheaper, by phone, than what was available online. In fact, the seats were online at a higher price as he was calling the box office... are "premium price" tickets just there for show, wonders the monkey?
Front Row Roulette
Fairly often, when tickets first go on sale, the front row or two don't - the theatre hold off until they know how far forward the stage is going to be, how high or any other issue which could result later in a moaning customer.
Just before previews begin, they know... and rather than have actors face two rows of empty seats, they use "dynamic pricing" to put some on sale cheap. Sometimes very cheap.
Therefore, worth checking online booking systems a day or two before a show opens, to see what has gone back and grab a bargain for the first couple of weeks or more.
Free Tickets and Friendship
Charity "Shape Arts" is dedicated to helping elderly and disabled theatregoers attend events. They offer a service to help those either physically unable to attend alone, or who simply would like someone along with them for company.
These "companions" are all volunteers and the charity always needs more of them. As a volunteer, all expenses are paid - ticket, petrol, parking and congestion charges are all met AND you get to meet interesting new people too. Extra drivers are always most wanted.
A newsletter is also produced 4 times a year which goes out to some 1500 members, individuals and groups. To be eligible members are deaf, disabled or over the age of 70. The newsletter has listings of theatre, musicals, opera, dance, concerts and other events.
If you are interested in volunteering, call 020 7619 6166 ( choose option 4 on the automatic menu) or visit Shape Arts for more information.
The Pocklington Trust also has a "link up" scheme putting partially sighted or blind people in touch with voulenteer companions. Call the Trust Volunteer Services Manager on 0208 996 1947 or 07891 614 947 or email linkup (put the @ symbol here) pocklington-trust.org.uk
"Pay What You Can" performances
Many fringe theatres have these - one night a week or a single show early in the run. It literally means what it says - turn up on the night and pay as much as you can for your ticket at the door. Most venues don't permit advance booking, and will only accept cash at these performances. Note too that it REALLY isn't polite, unless you are genuinely that hard up (in which case, no problem, these nights really are for you and the monkey wishes you well), to drop a mere penny or even single pound coin into the tin in return for your ticket. As a guide, a sum at around the "concession" price at a normal performance is more in line with the minimum - and if you can, a little more than the usual ticket price is very welcome indeed. Often, your extra donation helps keep the scheme going.
Collect your tickets on the night
Some readers swear by this. If you opt to book direct with the venue (rather than through a ticket agency) by phone or online, and say you'll collect your tickets from the box office counter (the "will call" window to New Yorkers!) then sometimes you get a nice surprise. Box office staff sometimes "upgrade" tickets on a quiet evening, and as you are a customer of the venue rather than a ticket agency, you could be first in line... Doesn't work on busy shows, but if it's quiet...
Trade in for an offer
Again, some readers swear by this. At places like the National Theatre, which allow audiences to exchange tickets for another date for a very small admin fee, they book direct with the venue (rather than through a ticket agency) by phone or online, and say they will collect tickets from the box office counter on the day.
They then keep an eye out for ticket offers. On spotting a good one, they can easily cancel the ticket, pay the exchange fee, and use the credit to re-book at a far lower price. By not having the ticket in their possession, they don't have to return it to the box office first.
Showsavers / Theatrenet / Gr8tix
Venerable website www.theatrenet.com has discounts for those willing to register with the site. The same page can also be reached with the address www.showsavers.co.uk.
Gr8tix is the junior version of this company. It offers discounts for children and young adults. Offer types include "2 tickets for £8 (so the accompanying adult comes free)", "1 free ticket with 4 purchased (1 of up to 2 adults comes free)", "member and accompanying adult come free" and also some tickets available to
19 to 21 year old students. Register online for them at www.theatrenet.com/gr8tix/
For those aged 16 to 18 a scheme called '145' is exactly what it says. See one show for £5. Find out more at www.mousetrap.org.uk. There's also a scheme run by them for young deaf people at AccessTheatre4£5 - free to join, offering three events a year at captioned or BSL interpreted West End theatre productions. Young deaf people can sign up via the website, and will then be invited to events via email and text.
Prompttickets.co.uk is a service run by Ambassador Theatre Group for students, offering a range of tickets for that night. On sale from 12 noon until 3pm daily via their website.
Mailing Lists, plus Newspaper and other Clubs
Subsidised companies like the Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court, charge around £15 per year to have performance schedules mailed to your home. You get priority booking before the public (essential for some shows), and discounted ticket offers. These include a chance to attend premieres at very low cost. Often, the more you pay for membership, the earlier you can book, too.
Lovetheatre.com, who operate the Theatremonkey Ticketshop for this website have a free to join theatre list offering discounts on a range of shows.
Whatsonstage are about the most comprehensive London Theatre resource on the internet. It often features very good ticket deals. The Whatsonstage Theatregoers' Club offers an astounding range of benefits from cheap tickets to allocations at sold out shows to discounts at restaurants and car parks even when not attending a show.
The Ambassador Theatre Group run a scheme called 'ATG Theatre Card' offering discounts and priority booking for £35 upwards per year. Details at http://www.atgtickets.com or on 020 8544 7424. Delfont Mackintosh Theatre Priority www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk is another scheme run by a Theatre owner. A reader says, "I'd also recommend that people get an ATG theatre card if they go to lots of shows as you get some really great discounts."
www.mymail.co.uk run by the Daily Mail, often has exclusive ticket offers for club members.
www.theaudienceclub.com: Members get a list of free see a constantly changing list of fringe (plus some West End venues) for previews of productions for just a very few pounds each. Get in before the critics! Myboxoffice.biz and Centraltickets.co.uk do similar things.
Actor's fan clubs may also make offers, either on their websites, Social Networking pages or Twitter feeds.
For those with mobile / cell phones on the Orange network, https://funfinder.orange.co.uk/Online/ has some last minute deals and bargains to be had.
Those with a Supermarket Loyalty Card from Tesco in the UK may also find points exchangeable for deals, as will those with a Nectar card.
www.allthatsfree.com is another website that claims it sometimes has tickets to give away for nothing.
www.ticketybox.com Offers weekly "prizes" including, sometimes, the right to buy a pair of theatre tickets more cheaply.
www.virgin-atlantic.com For those in the "frequent flyer" programme with this airline, a hook-up with major theatre advertising company AKA may offer discounts on shows that they promote.
Barclaycard's www.barclaycard.co.uk has cash back, priority booking and other ticket deals via partner agency The Ticket Factory.
www.Ideastap.com is a charity that offers members discounts. Free to join.
Myboxoffice.biz. Charges a fee for membership, plus a per ticket fee for some very special offers.
http://www.timeout.com/london/card#head Time Out magazine's membership card. For an annual fee you get 10% off Time Out ticket discount offer prices, among other benefits.
"Amazon Prime": If you have this with Amazon.co.uk, it offers a range of benefits including priority booking, access to lounges at some venues etc.
Twofers to New Yorkers. These vouchers give two tickets for the price of one. Pick them up in hotel lobbies, or get packets regularly mailed to your workplace. A range of stuff is offered, similar to Leicester Square, but with the luxury of advance booking.
Showpairs vouchers are also issued for "Meal and Show" deals - get two of those for the price of one, and as "buy one show, get one show free." Also straightforward discount vouchers - a price reduction rather than "two for one" are sometimes made available too.
Visit www.showpairs.co.uk for more information. Note: This company can only offer vouchers to corporations with more than 20 employees. It does not deal directly with individuals.
Put together a group of 10+ (sometimes as few as 6) and save up to 50%. The bigger the group, the lower the price and if not, negotiate. Theatremonkey does and it sometimes works. Extra special rates often apply for schoolchildren and Senior Citizen parties at midweek matinees.
Play the theatre and group booking specialist companies off against each other for prices, as both rates and seat locations on offer vary. It is your cash and groups can be used to fill rotten seats if you are not careful.
The monkey has also found that the theatre's own box office are likely to keep good seats back to sell themselves - so if location is important, it could well be worth trying them first (and you should still get a reasonable discount, too).
Tickets For Troops
If you serve / have served in HM Armed Forces from the 2001 Afghanistan conflict onwards, you are eligible for this scheme which says "Thank You" from the entertainment industry. Theatremonkey.com would like to be associated with that sentiment too of course. See www.ticketsfortroops.org.uk for details.
Local Coach Trips
If you cannot put your own group together, some coach tour companies within fifty miles of London run public inclusive trips combining a ticket with transport from their local area. These companies often schedule well ahead and will have bought great seats at group rates in anticipation of a new hit show. The result is a package for less than the price of a ticket alone. They have fifty coach seats to fill from the local population. Why not travel a little way out of town; see a new place in the day then join them for the trip. If staying in the West End just politely tell the driver you will not be returning with the coach to the starting point after the show. The Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers website has a list of approved operators, and local operators often advertise in their regional newspapers too.
Not strictly a ticket saving tip, but many box offices allow you to obtain a car park space, at a discount, along with your show seats. The "Theatreland Parking Scheme" may be available at car parks near may West End venues . Call Q-Park car parks on 0870 442 0104 or see www.q-park.co.uk for details. At this car park, parking under the "Theatreland Parking Scheme" allows a 50% discount in cost. Spaces CANNOT be reserved at these prices, though.
If you choose the "Theatreland Parking Scheme", you must get your car park ticket validated at the theatre's box office counter (the theatre attendant will insert the car parking ticket into a small machine which updates the information held on the magnetic strip on the reverse, thus enabling the discount). When you pay using the machines at the car park, 50% will be deducted from the full tariff. You may park for up to 4 hours after 12 noon, using this scheme and it is endorsed by the Society of London Theatre.
For a full list of car parks and theatres that participate in the 50% off theatreland scheme see www.q-park.co.uk.
Free tickets. Given to friends of the cast… if lucky. Also dished out to Group Organisers (see above), to the bitterest complainers to theatre managers, and to those in agencies, on mailing lists, in the tourist industry, nurses, police and armed services etc, etc. Check your place of work. Also given to those who invest in the play, but lashing out £1000 or so for two tickets seems a little extreme.
Reader Brin suggests that,
"If you can find out when an agency night is, then hang round the front of house, noticing those people with name tags and holding white envelopes.
Find out where they are from, even talk to them, chat them up a bit and just ask if there are any spare un collected tickets just before the show starts.
You can do the same thing during the interval - there are lots of people who have been given freebies but leave at half time, just ask them for their tickets!"
An interesting approach feels the monkey, and an interesting wheeze indeed.
The Sunday Times "Culture" section, Metro and London Evening Standard particularly, still sometimes carry adverts offering discounts on major shows at quieter times of the year - in London generally Midwinter to late Spring, excluding Bank Holiday periods. These range from 50% off to two for one offers by quoting a reference at the box office.
Listings magazine 'Time Out' also carries some offers, not just in it's theatre listings section but scattered throughout the magazine and buried at the foot of feature articles. These are worth looking out for. It also runs a "Premiere Club" with extra offers for members. Look out for the "free" membership offer on the website. www.timeout.com/london/offers carries an online page of constantly updated offers.
London Transport sometimes give holders of their 'Oyster' electronic travel cards a chance to buy cheap tickets at www.tfl.gov.
Combined meal/show packages where you get dinner in a decent restaurant plus a ticket for the price of a ticket alone. Again, details are on the current special offers page.
Gift Voucher Promotions
A number of companies, including the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) sell Gift Vouchers ( Gift Certificates) which can be exchanged for tickets.
They often run promotions where you get an extra 10% free... so, stock up on tokens and save 10%!
To purchase, see www.theatretokens.com 24/7 or call Tokenline 0844 887 7878 Monday to Friday during office hours and all orders are dispatched by first class post on the following business day. They are also available through a network of retails including all participating Theatres, WHSmiths, Waterstones and many Tourist Information Centres.
Become a Judge
Every year the Society of London Theatre appoint members of the public to the panel which makes the annual Laurence Olivier Awards. Panelists get a pair of free (not always good) seats to every opening that year. For a true theatre buff this is a big saving, but also a real commitment.
See Officiallondontheatre.com/Olivier-Awards for details.
Use an Accountant
Seriously. If you are self-employed and have anything to do with the entertainment or tourism / hospitality industry, you should be able to claim a tax allowance on tickets you buy, travel and eating at the show, even the clothes you wear (and laundering), electricity used to book the tickets etc. A 20% discount for going about your business, basically.
The Mousetrap Foundation
This charity aims to help schools and families attend West End theatre. They can be contacted on 020 7836 4388, fax 020 7836 4399, www.mousetrap.org.uk. They also have a club "Accesstheatre4£5" for deaf people aged 16 to 25. Details at www.youtube.com.
Upgrade Your Bank Account
Reader Ken pointed out that the Royal Bank of Scotland "Royalties International" Account comes with the benefit of both hotel and theatre ticket discounts when you book using their services. Savings of up to 25% are possible. More information at www.rbsint.com or call 01534 285536.
Other banks may offer similar discounts through their accounts - worth checking out, feels the monkey.
Restricted View Seats
Always sold cheap - the price formula is: seat price reduced in proportion to area of stage visible e.g. 50% viewable = 50% discount off price of nearest full view ticket. Sometimes a pillar is the problem. This monkey though has got great, cheap seats half under the stage where eccentric set design has overhung the front row.
Most restricted view seats can now be bought online or by phone, with a pop-up box online / operator explaining the issue. The worst, though, may not officially be sold anywhere except from the box office directly, usually over the counter to personal callers who can be shown the seats on the seating plan or even be taken into the auditorium to view them. This prevents a customer claiming 'we were not told these were restricted'.
The existence of some restricted view seats is also kept secret and prices not generally displayed or circulated. Theatremonkey features those it can on the site, but advises double checking with the box office to see if extra seats have been added after the play opened. Producers sometimes do this when the final staging has been settled and the impact from each seat assessed..
The best way to book a restricted view seat in advance, that doesn't seem to be on sale anywhere, is to call the box office or theatre chain call centre and ask for the seat by precise number. If you show you know what you are talking about, clerks will generally sell the seats to you in advance.
It may, however, take pressure to get these seats. Some box offices will deny all knowledge of cheap seats in the expensive parts of the theatre until all the really cheap, grotty tickets have been sold. Stand up to them and get closer to the stage for less cash, even if you do not see the whole of it!
Theatremonkey feels it better to be close to the stage and see some of it, then watch ants from the balcony - but decide for yourself which you prefer.
The Premium Seat Swerve
As online booking becomes more sophisticated the official theatre's own website often manipulates the price of remaining seats. This "dynamic pricing" means that a 20th row ticket, normally sold at the "standard top price" of £75 suddenly becomes a "premium" seat for £149 in case a Russian Oil Tycoon is trying to see a show that week, presumably.
If only a few seats are left in the "top price" area, and all have been increased to "premium," the monkey's "Premium Seat Swerve" suggests that you have a look at official Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers ticket agency websites. These may have odd tickets remaining in the same area too... and are less likely to have increased the price to "premium." True, many will charge a far higher booking fee than the box office (10% to 25%) BUT the total bill will still be lower than if you bought the premium seat.. and the location could be better too.
Worth a try if the show is almost sold out, feels the monkey.
The Upper Circle Trick
Buy the cheapest ticket in the Upper Circle or Balcony. On a quiet night the theatre will close them, and you will be promoted to the costlier seats downstairs. This works on less popular shows only of course!
REMEMBER THOUGH: This is your money. If you hold a front row ticket with a good view in the Upper Circle, don't be fobbed off with a rear Dress Circle seat with a lesser command. Argue and move.
Sometimes a theatre will refuse to sell a ticket in the Upper Circle over the telephone, claiming them to be 'unavailable'. This often means that the staff have been told not to sell the tickets in order to push the more expensive seats first. Turn up on the night and you should be able to buy those 'unavailable' tickets over the counter, and then be moved to the better seats.
If you must buy in advance, simply telephone an agency. If they can offer Upper Circle seats at box office price, buy - you stand a good chance of getting moved to better seats on the night.
Reader Rich adds,
"A cunning tactic, if you book through a company that enables you to see the seating plan, is to work out if a show is a sellout or not! If it's half full, buy cheap and get upgraded!)."
Risky, but may work, feels the monkey.
In 2012, another reader reported that she turned up to take her third tier Balcony seat, and was offered an upgrade to "best available" seats elsewhere for £10 per person. She declined, but wondered if it was common. Monkey had never had that happen at the time, but notes that it is more regular as time has gone on.
The Upper Circle Trick Squared
Observed by a reader in November 2011:
"We were in Balcony (third tier, highest in the venue) B22 and 23 which even though quite a height still gave a decent view so offered value for money... We saw somebody spin a yarn that they were 'scared of heights' to get a move from the Balcony to the Stalls - that's what happened with 2 people minutes before our performance began. They knew what to expect, booking Balcony seats, and had sat there for 30 minutes prior without any complaint... Not bad for earning a free upgrade! GRRR :("
The monkey agrees, and indeed alerted the venue to this ruse...
The Moving Forward Trick
If the Upper Circle or Balcony is likely to be kept open, and your pockets are deeper, buy the cheapest seat in the Stalls or Dress Circle and move forward to an unoccupied seat. Having an aisle seat makes this easier.
Moving forward to unoccupied seats is frowned on. You may well be asked to move back, if the management have not specifically given you permission - but it does pay to ask an usher if you can move, about a minute before curtain up, thus legitimising your action. Moving seems less frowned on after the interval, but the foregoing still stands.
You may well end up stuck in your original seat, and at worst be surrounded by those who paid less and got moved downstairs via the Upper Circle Trick. Theatremonkey does not find this method pans out, though friends say it does, and it helps to pretend you do not understand English if asked to move.
In 2016, a reader observed, "Unfortunately, quite a few of the premium centre stalls seats remained empty, and a few cheeky patrons snuck into row K a minute or two before the start (with the online seating plan showing availability displayed on his phone screen!)"
All too sneaky for Theatremonkey's liking, but not as sneaky as...
...Downright Dishonest - No responsibility taken if you try this stuff. Details are for FUN ONLY and are NOT ENDORSED OR ENCOURAGED BY THE WRITER or WEBSITE.
Walking in at halftime, after mixing with the smoking crowd in the street, is an old art. Tickets are not often checked after the interval, so drift into the theatre auditorium with the crowd, wait till the last second then head for a (hopefully) unsold and thus empty, seat. You do of course see only half the show, but it serves you right as this is straight stealing and you deserve your starring role next day in court. Strangely this trick works for sold out shows as people always leave at half time and scalpers unsold stock leave seats empty.
Fake ID Cards proving eligibility for discounts can be bought from mail order ads / manufactured on computer / produced using transfer letters. This is 'obtaining financial advantage by deception' and carries a hefty prison sentence. It also breaches the goodwill of producers who make these offers, spoiling things for the genuine.
Joining an evening class at a local college often yields a student ID card. For a theatre studies student, monkey guesses it is OK to use, but square your own conscience if you are learning macramé. Some join a college annually just for the card, and find the savings more than cover the cost of enrolment. They never show for a class 'cos they are always at the theatre.
My friend forgot is another criminal deception. You really are a student, your friend isn't. Ask for seats, and if a card is required, produce one, then make a great search for the other. Usually the kind clerk will let you have the ticket anyway.
Just asking for a discount, if you look student age or distinguished grey can sometimes get you a seat without a card even being asked for. Criminal, yeah, but in this case you weren't asked so… a 50/50 responsibility maybe?
My Mother is in there with the tickets can get you past the checks. You may or may not be sought out when you don't reappear, and ejected. Theft again. So don't try it.
Use an old ticket as few staff check all the details. If the theatre name and style of ticket match, a thumb over the date takes care of the rest. A nasty deception. Do not do it.
Make a ticket For the computer literate. Scan an old ticket in, alter, and hey presto - three years for forgery on top of your prison sentence for theft and deception. Not worth it and do not try it.