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London tips pt.2: Theatre

Part of this series.

The basics:

What are prices like? Anywhere between 5 and 180 pounds for a standard seasonal show in central london. A fiver will get you standing at the Globe, but an Opera at the ROH could set you back 200 quid. An average west-end show will be between 30 and 90 pounds.

What’s the vibe - aka What do I wear? Anything you like, babe. London theatre is pretty laid back as a whole, so don’t fret if you didn’t bring your opera gloves. Any show will have its share of people in their full-on Sunday best, and people fresh from work, and people in trainers. You may have a gran in her pearl earrings on one side, and a teenager in a band shirt on the other side of you – approximate somewhere between that. All are welcome.

How do buy a ticket?

  1. In advance: If you live within reach of London/plan to be here for theatrical shenanigans, as soon as you hear about a play (an ad, an email, a newspaper article, rumour, anything) get online and get buying if you want the day and seat of your choice. You snooze you lose. The more popular things (read: anything with a celebrity) or the smaller venues (like the Donmar) can often sell out, or just sell out all the good seats. Those that don’t sell out may just leave you with the back rows if you don’t move fast. A simple google search will generally direct you to each theatre’s own distributor: this can be their own branded website, or sometimes one of the larger management companies like Nimax or Ambassadors theatre groups.
  2. The individual theatre’s street box office: I cannot stress this enough: If you are able to, GO IN PERSON. Rocking up at during business hours to the actual theatre you want to go to and speaking to the lil baby drama student on duty in the little glass booth will get you such treasure. Just tell them what you want, and hopefully they can help you out as see everything they have on their all-powerful booking screen and are generally sweethearts – on short notice this can be better than buying online, as theatres often have a volume of seats they only release on the day, and you can ask them for things like ‘do you have anything on a row-end/certain time/certain day/at this price’ or ‘can you sell me a standing ticket’ (for the sold out shows), or ‘where do I stand if I want to queue for returns’?.
  3. TKTS: if you wanna see the big hits (Phantom, Lion King, Book of Mormon etc), the jukebox vaudevilles (musicals based on movies, or based on ‘the songs of that popular band’), or the big celeb seasonal draws, then there’s a freestanding booth in Leicester Square called TKTS that is the big reputable ‘on-the-day’ discount seller for a lot of the big west-end crowd-pleasers. It’s on the south side of the square, and clearly-labelled TKTS. They do the big musicals and usually the west-end transfers of other theatres whose shows hit the big time (eg the NT will move its popular shows to a west end venue to clear their decks for more work at their main house, and allow them to run the play for longer) It’s same-day, so go ready with a free evening.

Rundown of the main theatres under the cut:

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