I planned many of my trips to the theatre in advance. That being said, most of the time I was just looking for something to do when I had a free day from assignments or classes. When I think back to my time in London, some of my favourite memories involve going to same-day theatre.
If you love going to the theatre as much as I do, here are some of my tips for scoring tickets to some of the hottest shows in London!
If you are flexible with days of the week, show times, or where you sit, you are already a great candidate for same-day theatre experiences.
When theatres do not sell all of the tickets for a day’s showing, often these seats will go on sale for a discounted price in an attempt to fill up the audience. If you find that you have a free afternoon, choose a show you would like to see and ask the theatre box office what tickets are available for that afternoon or evening. Often these tickets are cheaper than buying in advance, even for seats close to the stage!
Okay without a seat? Even better!
Some theatres have “standing only” tickets that you can purchase for a great discount! If you do not mind standing at the back of a theatre, you can see some incredible shows without spending too much!
I was lucky enough to see a revival of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land starring Sir Ian Mckellen, and Sir Patrick Stewart for £10 – around $16 CAD! I wasn’t sure what to expect with a “standing only” ticket. Honestly, the show was too good to notice if my legs were getting tired. As an English student, it was incredible to be able to witness such theatre legends in action. Note: Ticket prices will vary depending on the show, theatre, time of day and availability. You can also ask about ticket discounts for students! Just be sure to have your student ID on hand.
RESEARCH THE SHOWS YOU WANT TO SEE
I had an ongoing list of shows I was itching to see. Some of these choices were based on reviews I had read, the crowds I could see around the theatres while walking around London, or simply because of the cast involved. It is important to have some idea of the shows you would like to see because it will make it that much easier to pop-in to one of the theatre box offices and ask about ticket availability.
For example, if you find yourself in the West End on a spare afternoon, it is extremely easy to walk past a theatre (or six). You may be reminded of that show whose posters you passed in the tube several times a day. Having multiple shows in mind will also make it easier to theatre-hop if your first choice does not have same-day tickets available, or perhaps do have tickets available, but are not in your desired price range.
Not sure where to start your research? Go to West End LIVE!
West End LIVE is an exciting weekend in London where some of the city’s most popular theatre casts give short performances and information about their shows. This Trafalgar Square event gives you the chance to experience some incredible open-air theatrical performances. Each show has cast members perform to give members of the audience a taste of what to expect in their show. Some of the performances might surprise you and give you a list of shows that interest you that you might not have considered before!
The event is completely FREE to attend – all you have to do is wait in line for access to the event (so bring sunblock and an umbrella!) It is the equivalent of free samples at the grocery store, but instead of a snack, you get a taste of musical numbers and outstanding costumes.
Some of the shows that were part of West End LIVE when I attended included:
- The Lion King
- Thriller Live
JOIN A TICKET-RAFFLE
A few of the bigger/more popular/newer West End shows have ticket raffles that keen theatre go-ers can enter to score same-day tickets for an otherwise sold-out show. For these raffles, you just enter your name (either at the box-office or close to the box office in a designated area) and are told to come back at a certain “draw time” time to see if you have won.
My mom and I entered one of these raffles when Aladdin the Musical was just starting out in the West End. We ended up winning the chance to purchase front-row tickets! The atmosphere alone of the raffle was exciting to watch, but the chance to see an award-winning musical front-row? Priceless.
Note: These raffles do not typically grant free tickets, they allow for the opportunity to purchase reduced rate tickets for otherwise sold-out shows.
BE PREPARED TO WAIT
Ultimately, same-day shows are meant to be spontaneous excursions and it is important to not get too disappointed if something you want to see is not available, or your plans for the day change.
You can always try again another day! Have fun with it! Your hard work will eventually pay-off and you will have some great theatre memories to go along with it.
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