16 ways to get free or cheap theatre tickets
Looking for cheap (or even free) theatre tickets? Before splashing out on an expensive ticket, read these tips. You could save a fortune.
Going to the theatre is such a treat. But when you're faced with prices of £100+ to see your favourite plays and musicals, it's not always the most budget-friendly hobby.
When you know where to look, though, there are actually some brilliant deals out there. In fact, it's even possible to get tickets for free.
Read on for our list of the best ways to save money on theatre tickets.
How to buy cheap theatre tickets
Here are the best ways to get cheap or free theatre tickets:
Sign up for theatre schemes for young people
Lots of theatres in the UK run schemes that offer young people affordable theatre tickets.
Here are a few examples:
- Young Barbican at the Barbican, London – 14–25-year-olds can get tickets for theatre, art, film, music and dance shows for £5, £10 or £15. Tickets for new film releases cost £5.
- 16=24 at the MAC, Belfast – 16–24-year-olds can get £5 tickets for selected shows.
- Theatre for a Fiver at the National Theatre of Scotland – 14–26-year-olds or those on Universal Credit can get £5 ticket deals for National Theatre of Scotland productions.
Before booking tickets at your local theatre, check if they run any similar schemes.
It would be great if they do. But if not, you might still be able to get a student discount, as we'll explain in the next point.
Buy theatre tickets with a student discount
Even if your local theatre doesn't have a specific scheme for young people, you might still be able to get discounted tickets as a student.
First, look on the theatre's website to see if they offer discounted tickets to students. If not, you might be able to buy tickets via a third-party website that does offer a student discount.
Sign up to Showfilmfirst for free tickets
Showfilmfirst is a scheme that offers its members free event tickets – including for theatre shows. In return for the tickets, you're asked to provide constructive feedback after the show.
As well as theatre tickets, members are also offered free tickets to see films, comedy shows and gigs.
To find out more about Showfilmfirst's membership, head to their website.
See local theatre productions
While West End productions can be incredible, they're far from your only options.
See what's on at your local theatre. You might be able to see some high-quality theatre shows for low prices.
And check if your uni's drama society is putting on a play or musical soon. If so, you should be able to buy cheap tickets. Plus, if the show's being performed on campus, you won't need to travel to get there after spending the day at uni (meaning no extra costs for transport!).
Sign up to SeatPlan to earn vouchers
Love theatre? Try SeatPlan.
If you're not familiar with SeatPlan, it's a good site for finding cheap theatre tickets in cities such as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester.
On the site, you earn Rewards points by sharing a photo of the view from your seat. Once you've earned enough points, you can redeem them as vouchers to spend on future theatre tickets.
So, especially if you're a regular theatre-goer, earning Rewards points on SeatPlan is a great (and easy) way to save money on tickets.
Get tickets with obstructed views
Following on from the last point, checking the photos of seat views on SeatPlan can help you find the best cheap theatre tickets that are available.
The seats with obstructed views will generally be the cheapest. But, usually, it's hard to know how obstructed the views will be until you arrive at the theatre.
To avoid the disappointment of getting to your seat and realising you can barely see anything at all, check the photos on SeatPlan before buying any tickets. They'll give you an idea of what to expect and can help you find the seats that are great value for money.
And even if a seat does have a slightly obstructed view, remember it might still be worth it if it's very cheap.
Compare prices before buying tickets
When buying theatre tickets, shop around for the best deal.
To get the cheapest tickets, it helps if you're flexible about which show you see, and when. But if you do have a certain play or musical in mind, and want to go on a specific day, look at the prices of tickets on different sites before buying any.
For small local theatre productions, you'll likely only be able to buy the tickets from the theatre directly.
But, for tickets at bigger theatres (like those on the West End), you could save money by looking at a few websites. These can include the theatre's own website, as well as sites like lastminute.com and LOVEtheatre.
Buy last-minute theatre tickets
Again, this tip works best if you're not too fussy about which theatre show you watch. But there is a chance you could buy discounted last-minute tickets for the play you're desperate to see.
There are a few ways to buy cheap last-minute theatre tickets.
Another option is to contact a theatre's Box Office to see if they have any tickets for sale. Even if a show has sold out, it's still worth asking about tickets in case someone has returned theirs.
It's sometimes possible to buy cheap standby tickets, meaning you can watch a show if there are any returned or unsold tickets. As an example, at Capital Theatres, students can buy a standby ticket for £10 for most of their shows.There are often competitions to win free theatre tickets – look out for these! And try these tips on how to win competitions.
Use a voucher website
Sites like Groupon and Wowcher can be great for finding theatre deals. You'll sometimes be able to buy a single ticket at a discounted price, or you might find bundle deals that include dinner and/or a hotel stay with the ticket.
For the bundle deals, have a look at experience day websites such as:
The vouchers for theatre, dinner and hotel stays are usually pretty expensive. But, if you're planning to make a weekend of it anyway, you might be able to save money compared to buying the ticket, dinner and accommodation separately.
Before buying a voucher, compare prices elsewhere to make sure you are getting the best deal.
If you're lucky, you might be able to get a discount on a voucher (either for just a ticket or for a bundle deal). Voucher sites sometimes give out discount codes, such as when you sign up for their newsletter. Also, check if you could get a student discount on the voucher.
Some sites run limited-time reductions on selected vouchers. Keep an eye on each site to see if they have any special offers on theatre deals. You could save a fair amount of money on the tickets if so.
Get half-price theatre tickets with a Railcard
Railcards are known for being a great way to save money on train tickets. But it turns out, they can also save you money on theatre tickets, too.
With a 16–25 Railcard, you can save up to 50% off on theatre tickets.
To see the current deals, head to 'Offers & Competitions', then 'Theatre' on the Railcard website and follow the link. But, again, it's always worth checking the prices on other sites as well, just in case it's possible to find the tickets for less.
If you haven't yet got a Railcard but are planning to get one, there are some ways to save money on them. At full price, a 16–25 Railcard is £30 for one year, or £70 for three years.
Sometimes, it's possible to get 33% off digital Railcards via Trainline.
Or, if the Trainline deal isn't available, see if you can use Tesco Clubcard points for money off your Railcard. This offer is usually available with Clubcard's Reward Partners – which brings us to our next tip.
Use Tesco Clubcard points for discounted tickets
Tesco Clubcard tops our list of the best loyalty cards for a few reasons, including the deals on offer with its Reward Partners.
At the time of writing, it's possible to use your Clubcard points to buy theatre tickets via TodayTix. For this, £0.50 in vouchers gets turned into £1.50 to go towards tickets.
However, be careful with this deal. If you have loads of Clubcard points that you'd be happy to use for theatre tickets, you could potentially save money. But, we have seen tickets for the same show available for cheaper on TodayTix's own website than on the Clubcard website.
Before buying via Clubcard, compare the price of the tickets with the prices on other sites.
You might find you're only saving a small amount (or could even be paying more) by getting the tickets via Clubcard. If this is the case, it's probably worth buying the tickets from a different site and saving your Clubcard points to use with another Reward Partner.
Work in a theatre for free or cheap tickets
If you're looking for a part-time job, see if your local theatre has any vacancies.
Although each theatre will have its own employee benefits, you might find these include free or discounted tickets. As such, it could be a great way for you to earn an income and save money on theatre tickets.
Plus, if you're hoping to work in the theatre industry after uni, the part-time job would massively boost your CV.
Find opportunities near you with our part-time job search.
Get tickets during London Theatre Week
For cheap West End theatre tickets, keep an eye out for London Theatre Week. It last ran from 22nd August – 11th September 2022, and it should return in early 2023.
During London Theatre Week, you can get tickets to some of the city's top plays and musicals for £15, £25, £35 and £45.
Buy off-peak theatre tickets
A big perk of uni life is that you often have a more flexible schedule than you would with a full-time job. Because of this, you might find you're free while many are at work, such as on weekday afternoons.
As Fridays and Saturdays are such popular days to go to the theatre, weekend shows are usually more expensive than weekday ones.
If you're flexible about what day and time to watch a show, you should be able to get cheap theatre tickets by booking them at off-peak times.
Review plays as a student journalist
Student journalism can be an amazing way to gain work experience. Although it's not easy to make money from it at first, it is possible. But even if you're struggling to get paid commissions, you might still be able to get free press tickets for theatre shows.
To get press tickets, you'll usually need to be writing for a particular publication. If you're not already, apply to write for your university's student newspaper or magazine. Once writing for a publication, you'll be in a good position to apply to attend a theatre show as a journalist.
For more tips on how to start earning an income as a student journalist, see our guide to making money from writing.
Watch theatre screenings
If you're struggling to find cheap theatre tickets for your favourite show, see whether you could watch a recording of that production. Major theatre shows are sometimes available to watch in cinemas, on streaming services or on TV.
A good example is Hamilton. A ticket to see it in the West End costs well over £100. But if you have a Disney+ subscription, you can watch a recording of it for no extra cost. Even if you haven't yet got Disney+, you could share a subscription with three friends and only need to pay £19.98 each for the year – a huge saving compared to a theatre ticket.
Or, if you watch a lot of theatre shows, you could save a lot of money on tickets by signing up for a dedicated theatre streaming service like National Theatre at Home. At the time of writing, it costs £9.99 per month, or £99.99 per year if paying annually.
Also a fan of the big screen? See our tips on how to get free and cheap cinema tickets.