Studying at such a science-based university, it is often easy to forget that London is one of the world’s art capitals, with an endless number of plays, musicals, and exhibitions at our doorstep. Unfortunately, the theatre has a bit of a reputation for being expensive, and therefore inaccessible for younger audiences with limited funds, such as students.
That’s what I thought too, at least for the first couple of years of university, spending too much money on a small number of shows per year. Now in my fifth year, people tend to be shocked when they hear how often I get to go to the theatre, and assume I am a drug lord. The truth is, I have a few go-to strategies to ensure I get the best deal possible for every show, most of which are only possible because I am a student. Read on for some these tips and tricks , which will help you save some money and enjoy the wonders that the London theatre scene (pun intended) offers.
Felix Arts (FREE!)
Yes, number one on my list is none other than Felix, the Imperial College student paper, the one you’re reading right now. A majority of the articles in the arts section of Felix are reviews of plays, musicals and exhibitions (although we welcome any kind of contribution if you feel like it). Twice a month, we post a list of press tickets made available for us to review for upcoming performances and exhibitions on our Facebook group (predictably titled Felix Arts 2019⁄20). The members of the group then get to claim the press tickets for free. All we ask for in return is a review to be published in print and online. There is no minimum participation quota, and as long as you review what you’ve seen, you can participate as often as you like, and as much as you like!
TodayTix is a must-have mobile application for any London-based theatre enthusiast. Not only do they frequently offer good deals on tickets, they release tickets for select shows at 10am each day, for that day’s performance(s), allowing two tickets per customer. These tend to cost £20, and get snatched up quickly, as there is only a limited number available. To maximise your chances, I recommend turning the notifications on for the Rush Tickets you’re interested in. This will allow the app to send you a reminder shortly before 10 am. As long as you are ready to add the tickets to your basket, you should be all set. Sometimes it’s worth hanging around on the Rush Tickets page as any tickets from other users’ baskets for which the transactions weren’t completed get recycled into circulation. As of now, Waitress, Come From Away and Fiddler on the Roof are only some of the shows that participate in Rush Tickets, but the selection updates frequently.
There are different types of lotteries which tend to vary in price points, methods, and chance of actually winning tremendously. TodayTix runs daily lotteries for various plays where you can apply to win cheap premium tickets (these tend to be at about £20) throughout the morning for the day’s performances. I have never actually got tickets this way, but there is no harm in trying. TodayTix also runs some weekly lotteries, most prominently for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, called the Friday Forty, allocating 40 tickets per performance for £20 per part (i.e. £40).
Some shows run their own lotteries on their website, such as Book of Mormon, who also carry out a daily lottery in front of the theatre box office.
Now becoming a bit old-fashioned, some theatres ask patrons to queue early in the morning for a chance to obtain cheap, last minute tickets. These do tend to be very cheap. Be aware, though, that these are sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, meaning people tend to queue at ungodly hours, especially for shows that are sold out or very expensive through their general release, such as Hamilton. Finally, note that occasionally, these are standing tickets. As long as you don’t mind standing up for 2.5 hours, seeing Hamilton for £10 really doesn’t sound like a bad deal.
Additionally, although not technically any cheaper than face value, it is not uncommon for theatres to sell return tickets shortly before a performance at the box office. This has proven to be an effective strategy for me to see shows that are otherwise sold out such as Fleabag and The Cursed Child.
Student and Youth Memberships
Some theatres run special schemes for students, which has been a complete game changer for me. Most importantly, National Theatre’s Entry Pass scheme (which is free to sign up for) for those between 16 and 25 provides an allocation of £7.50 tickets (£10 for guests, who also need to be between 16 and 25) to every one of their productions. Additionally, 45 minutes before each performance, National Theatre allows those with a valid student card to purchase any remaining tickets for £15, regardless of their original price tags.
A similar scheme is present within the English National Opera titled “Access All Arias” which provides cheap tickets to the opera. (£30 in the stalls, £20 in the dress circle and £10 in the upper circle). This scheme is also free to join, and anyone beloww 30 years-old or those enrolled in full-time education can apply.
Finally, an online scheme called Go Live (previously known as West End for 10) releases £12 tickets for at least two shows a month! The organisation is currently undergoing significant changes, therefore keep your eyes on their new website when it is finally live to see what they are up to.
So, I think not only is this more than enough evidence that the West End can in fact be accessible to all, I hope it encourages you to try some of these out, join our Felix family, and enjoy some of the leading theatre productions in the world on a student budget!