Plays in London: A Cheapo’s Guide

TL;DR:

  • The most common way to get cheap tickets (£5 to £25) to great shows in London is to queue outside the box offices of theatres before opening hours!

With the sheer number of musicals and plays available at the West End, a visit to London DEFINITELY involves catching a show or two. From classics like Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap — which happens to be the world’s longest running production which has been ongoing since March 1974 — to newer plays like the exciting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it is almost guaranteed that you can find at least one show that appeals to you.

If you ever searched for tickets to plays or musicals in London before, you may be wondering why I’m writing a cheapo’s guide to it. The tickets aren’t exactly cheap, are they? While one may be able to purchase the cheapest ticket for Wicked the Musical at a decent price of £24.75, with the seat being the furthest from the stage, that honestly can’t be any good!

But the fact that I am writing this goes to show that there is a way around the expensive tickets/good seats and cheap tickets/poor seats conundrum. This magic is called… day tickets.

How do these work? Most theatres tend to reserve a couple of tickets for every show and these are sold at the box office on the day of the performance. Mind you, these are not lousy tickets. I’m talking about seats with unrestricted views and that are not too far off from the stage! Best of all? Your wallet doesn’t suffer terribly, because most of these tickets do not cost more than £30 per show. A similar seat in Singapore will probably set you back by over a $100 — this is definitely a bargain!

Of course, there is a catch. The specific method differs from theatre to theatre, but generally speaking, in order to get your hands on these tickets, you should aim to be in the queue outside the box office for at least an hour before opening hours. That is not a big sacrifice, isn’t it? After all, getting up early means you are maximising your time in London!

A comprehensive guide to every show at every theatre in West End is available here. As this post will only discuss the shows I had watched personally, I highly recommend that you visit this site for the other shows you are interested in and for specific details on getting day tickets for them.

In chronological order, here are the shows that I was thrilled to have been able to catch during my stay in London:

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Outside the Gielgud Theatre: We got tickets for front row seats!

Simon Stephen’s play is a spin-off based on the original novel by Mark Haddon. Christopher, a fifteen year old boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome, finds a dead dog in the middle of the night and is accused of being responsible for this heinous act. He then embarks on an investigation to find the true murderer and in doing so, discovers more about his background and learns more about his close ones.

It is no doubt a heartwarming tale and the ability of the cast to make the story come to life through excellent visual effects kept my eyes glued to the play for its entire duration. At only £15 for a day seat, this is definitely a steal! Do take note though, that the last run for this show is on 03/06/17, so do make it a point to catch this show if you have the chance to!

Venue: Gielgud Theatre (Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 6AR, UK)
Nearest Tube station: Piccadilly Circus Station (Piccadilly/Dark Blue line & Bakerloo/Brown line)
Box office opening hours: Monday — Saturday, 10am — 7.45pm.
Cost of ticket: £15

2. Matilda the Musical

Outside the Cambridge Theatre: These only cost us £5 each!

I absolutely loved this. Maybe it helped that I haven’t read Roald Dahl’s Matilda yet (whoops), but this was lovely. The kids acting in the show were really talented, the story was incredibly entertaining and the fact that it was a musical made it really lively!

For those who have not read the book as well, Matilda is a brilliant young girl with telekinetic abilities who deals with a number of difficult situations, including familial and school related ones throughout the musical with the help of Miss Honey, a kind-hearted teacher. I’ll leave you to watch the exact story unfold before your eyes during the play!

Venue: Cambridge Theatre (Seven Dials, 32–34 Earlham Street, WC2H 9HU)
Nearest Tube station: Covent Garden Station (Piccadilly/Dark Blue line)
Box office opening hours: Monday — Saturday, 10am till slightly after the start of the evening show)
Cost of ticket: £5 (you read that right, my friend)

3. The Book of Mormon

Outside the Theatre: Can’t believe I won the ballot on my first attempt!

Many say that this show is hilarious. As a Christian myself, truth be told, there were quite a significant number of religious jokes that I did not really find funny or should not have laughed at (whoops). So fellow Christians/Catholics, do note what you are getting yourself into.

This satirical musical mainly appeals to the side of us that likes a bit of mindless humour from time to time. The plot revolves around two Mormons who travel to Africa to share their faith with the locals. They get into a couple of disagreements along the way, as a result of a mismatch in expectations and because of issues arising from their pasts. You’ll find out how they overcome various problems along the way and the villagers’ responses to Mormonism when you watch the musical!

Unlike other theatres where you have to queue up beforehand for day seats, these special tickets are sold based on a ballot held at 5pm before each show. You have to submit your name and indicate the number of tickets you intend to buy (up to a maximum of two), place them in the ballot box and return again at 5.30pm to await the results of the ballot. Do note that if you happen to not be present when your name is called, your ballot sheet is automatically torn up!

This system is a little tricky because you should come up with a back up plan in case you fail to get tickets. Also, this may not be a good idea for group outings as some of you might get it while the others may not, which isn’t the best situation to be in.

If you really want to watch this, be prepared to free up a few nights to enter the ballot. Alternatively, you may want to purchase tickets online instead. Since you have already spent money to travel to London, you might as well spend a bit more to make sure that you get to catch the show!

Venue: Prince of Wales Theatre (Coventry St, London W1D 6AS, UK)
Nearest Tube station: Piccadilly Circus Station (Piccadilly/Dark Blue line & Bakerloo/Brown line)
Box office opening hours: Monday — Saturday, 10am — 7.45pm )
Cost of ticket: £20

These are the three shows I caught during my past visits to London! I hope this post helps you with finding affordable play tickets. Whether you opt to buy day-seat tickets or standard-priced tickets, do make it a point to catch at least a play or musical though! I promise you that it will definitely be worth your time.