Posts Tagged ‘cheap theatre tickets’

Extra great deal for “Death and the Kings Horseman” at the National

March 31, 2009

Okay, so you THINK you can’t do better than a £10 ticket, right? But no, the National is offering a free drink and program if you book a ticket for this by April 3rd for performances on 1-23 April (excluding Saturdays). Now, I’m a bit scared, as the last time this happened was for Fram, which makes me wonder if this is the National Theatre “Lassie Special,” that is, a way to fill the seats for a show that’s a dog. Still, I have an ongoing interest in the colonial experience in Africa, and was planning on seeing the show anyway, so I’ll be calling 020 7452 3000 and quoting “Metro” when I make my booking.

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Webcowgirl’s review of London theater 2008

January 15, 2009

Well, it’s been the busiest show year for me in my entire life. Sadly, I don’t think I can speak to the entirety of London theater even with some 93 shows under my belt (all paid out of pocket, which does impose limits on what I can see), but I think I can at least say I made a good attempt at covering the scene …

Best dance performance:

New York City Ballet’s Jerome Robbins Program (Four Seasons, Moves, The Concert). I am a big fan of the mixed rep performance (because it provides you with a chance to see many different styles in one night), but often a really strong program will be marred by one piece that’s a real dog. But when you take a world class company like City Ballet and pair it with choreography by Robbins – well, this was the kind of night that had me walking out of the theater gasping for breath. Whew!

Best theater I “discovered:”

The Arcola Theatre, way off in the eastern wilds of Dalston, became the theater I most wanted to visit this year. I saw two productions there (Lady from the Sea, The Only Girl in the World) and kept trying to see more. The intimacy of the two spaces within the theater really pleased me; the coffee shop made waiting for the show to open pleasant; the inventiveness of the directors engaged my mind. Why is it that it always seems like when you give people less, they can do more? The biggest problem with this theater: getting home an hour and a half after the end of the show really killed me and kept me from seeing at least two shows. Still, they have another exciting season ahead and I will try to go back often.

Worst seating:

I know the Menier Chocolate Factory has recently started reserved seating (on a “show by show basis,” God knows why), but I actually got scrapes on my thighs from the seats I had for “They’re Playing Our Song,” and my front row seats for “A Little Night Music” put my eye level at about the height of my knees. Do these people never actually watch the shows from the seats or what?

Best cheesy musical:

though my seats were far from ideal, the most fun West end musical this year was absolutely “Zorro.” This panto for adults also wins the prize for best musical to take out of town visitors to see. I expect it will be around for a while, and deservedly so.

Best musical:

the Union Theatre in Southwark knocked my socks off with their “Annie Get Your Gun.” First you’ve got the most awesome music ever (it was just one hit after another), then you take a pile of brilliant actors and pack them in a room so tightly they’re practically sitting in your lap, then you make them sing and dance and ham it up, and there you have the incredibly overstimulating Annie/Gun experience. I’ve only not made it back to that theater because of the Union’s tendency to sell their shows out so far in advance. MUST remember to make reservations earlier from now on!

Best show:

it wasn’t just the hype: for me, “August: Osage County” was a “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” kind of show, with a on the mark script that in the hands of its stellar cast managed to get me through three hours of chatter without once boring me. The characters were sharp and realistically written; their conflicts believable; and, ooh, even if many of the plot points were pulled straight out of the O’Neill bag of tricks, how fresh they seemed. Oddly, both it and “Gesthemane” seemed to be critiques of a world gone rotten through bad politics (this rot seeming to extend to the family), but it’s my belief that “Osage County” will stand the test of time and O’Hare’s show will be forgotten in another year or so. It’s all about great characters and timeless themes, folks, and Tracy Letts’ play has got ’em in spades. (For a long time it looked like it was going to be the theatrical magic of “Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter” that took the prize, but Deanna Dunagan just blew me out of the Lyttelton.)

Worst show:

well, you know, there was the pretentiousness, and then the farting jokes, and then the incoherent plot, and the boringness, and then the pretentiousness, and that’s not even including the overall horror that is what happens when you try to use rhyming couplets as a medium for telling a show. Yes, I am talking about “Fram,” a play so bad that it’s become legendary, a point of reference for badness (the “baddicle”), and the inspiration for my only rhymed review of a show. Does a play have sleeping bags, or dogs, or perhaps a reference to Westminster Abbey, or even a banquet scene? Then, sir, you may be hearing a joke about how it makes me think of Fram. One member of my party had to leave in a rush at intermission due to an impending panic attack; I had to buy drinks for the remaining members of my party (who trickled out at the end of intermission) as an apology for inviting them. Who knows: perhaps some day the National will remount Carrie: The Musical as an apt pairing with this other turkey. God only knows it is good to support new works but sometimes you can take it too far.

Weirdest show:

the “Shen Yu Divine Performing Arts Ensemble Chinese Spectacular gets the prize here. I’m a big fan of Chinese culture, but when you combine cheesy special effects with a religious revival, you get me looking for the doors. I’ve never seen a mainstage performance that was also pushing a political and religious agenda at the same time, and nowhere on the promotional literature did it say that this was the Fa Lun Gung religious cult’s take on China, Chinese culture, and Chinese art – with lots of pro-Fa Lun Gung songs, done in a horrible European style, sandwiched between the dance bits. I prefer to keep my dance separated from my politics, and I don’t like people doing a bait and switch like happened here – telling me I was going to see “art” and instead giving me a bunch of “religion.” I much preferred the Peony Pavillion, which gave me a chance to see a truly classical Chinese performance (and over three nights!).

Best cheap place to eat before a show:

there were a few great entries in this category this year. Paul’s given up its Covent Garden crown in favor of Wahaca; Bangalore Express has the Old Vic and Young nicely covered; but the restaurant I dreamed of was 19 Numara Bos Cirrik, around the corner from the Arcola. It’s the only restaurant that made me look for excuses to be in the neighborhood. Mmm, meat! (And there’s another one around the corner from the Hackney, but I only go there at panto time so that didn’t influence me much.)

Best website for London theatre fans:

there’s a lot of shows out there, and while price is important in determining which to see, it’s even more important (to me) that I not waste my time on turkeys (Thanksgiving is only once a year!). So I thank the West End Whingers not just for being attentive to the many things that can make a good evening better, but also to the horrible, glaring, single thing that can make an evening bad: a completely crap show. They’ve sent me to shows I wouldn’t have considered (Zorro) and done their best to save me from the dogs (Gone With The Wind – The Musical! – saved! Fram – oops), all while doing so with a writing style that keeps me entertained consistently (more than I can say for many of the shows they’ve seen). They even inspired me to do my own blog. Thanks, Phil and Andrew!

Best website for London theatre deals:

of all of the things people seem interested in reading about on this site, it’s my post on the 12 best ways to get cheap theater tickets in London that keeps the punters coming. So I’ve started adding more deals to the site as I see them come through. That said, for me personally, LastMinute.com has done the most to make it possible for ME to see as many shows as I do. I don’t have an unlimited budget, and when times are tight, I know I can pop over to their site with a good chance of being able to find something for £10-£15. I can’t always find the show I want when I want it, and I’m occasionally going to get not very good seats, but when the option is not going at all … to me, it’s more important to have been there and seen most of it than to have not been able to go at all. Thanks, LastMinute.com – and for the rest of you people who keep trying to flog your crappy, overpriced scalper seats on my site – buzz off!

Peepolykus return with “Spyski” – great £5 deal!

October 2, 2008

This morning’s Metro was touting a £10 offer for tickets to see Spyski, by Peepolykus, whose Hound of the Baskervilles left me in stitches two Mays ago (apparently I didn’t bother to review it at all – wait, I did, just not here and not much). The show’s at the Lyric Hammersmith and I’m all hot to see it, only now I see Last Minute has tickets for £5, which is even better! Now all I need to do is get a pair for tomorrow, somehow, though it looks to be sold out!

Coming up later today: review of Merce Cunningham at the Barbican. Summary: modern dance master, and the evening is worth seeing just for “Biped,” which is genius and features a live Gavin Bryars score.

Desperate for content, I wordled my blog

August 15, 2008

I was in high hopes of getting a scoop by seeing the first night of the “Threepenny Ring Cycle,” but the performance was postponed due to rain and I found myself having serious doubts the show would occur at all – so I exchanged my tickets for the Pinter double header taking place in September at the National (tickets in the very front at the very back for only £10, a good deal at five quid a play – Landscape and A Slight Ache if you were wondering). Watching the crew pour buckets of rain off of the tent that sat over the show sealed the deal, and we were home at about 9:15.

Thus, for a lack of content, I “Wordled” my blog. Tomorrow, or tonight, you’ll get my take on what £20 tickets for West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells will get you.

Great deal on Noel Coward’s “Brief Encounter” at the Haymarket

July 8, 2008

I noticed in yesterday’s Metro that the daily reader offer was £20 tickets (buy one at £39.50, get one free) for Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter at the Cinema Haymarket, one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. The deal is “two top price tickets for £39.50,” and, hey, if you get lucky you’ll even get some snacks at intermission. It says “Call 0871 230 1562 and quote ‘Metro offer,’ valid for all performances except Saturday evenings until 31 August.” So, hurray for this – I’ll be going back to see it again!

Marguerite the Musical – the search for cheap tickets continues!

April 22, 2008

My uncle, a big fan of new theater, is coming to visit in June, and I’m planning to have a week full of fun for him. He’s retired so very cost conscious, which makes him extremely amenable to cheap seats up near the roof. I’ve managed to book us some decent seats for The Revenger’s Tale on Saturday the 14th of June. It’s not really new but since it’s £10 a pop, it hits a lot of other criteria quite nicely. (The summer season just went on sale at the National, so now’s the time to grab those £10 Travellex seats for the prime Friday and Saturday slots.) This puts me back to figuring out how to get us tickets for two other shows – Powder Her Face (an opera at the Linbury) and Marguerite, a brand-new musical based on La Dame Aux Camelias, which I’ve heard of but otherwise no nothing about (not being so big on opera).

Now, official tickets for Marguerite (per their website) are in the pricey range – £63 and £58 for stalls, £43 for upper circle, £27 for “cattle class”/nosebleeds. LastMinute.com (which has screwed up by not listing it in the musicals section) is not really doing better, but does have an amusing £25 deal in which (it appears) you get the equivalent of a free meal at Pizza Express along with your crummy pigeon-loft seats. This is a real disappointment to me because when I see shows at the Haymarket, I like to eat across the street at Galileo, which has genuinely good Italian food and a killer £10 prix fixe pre-theater meal deal (plus the owner is really funny and always very welcoming to me). So I did a search for “Marguerite the Musical” on Google, and what did I find – gallery seats on some site called DiscountTheatre.com for a mere £15. That will get me dining at the restaurant of my choice. Next stop, the Royal Opera House for Powder Her Face tickets, perfect for that hard to fill Sunday afternoon slot. Now, when will they release some more tickets?

12 best ways to get cheap theatre tickets in London

March 2, 2008

After seven years on the ground in London and with over 900 plays / concerts / ballets / operas under my belt, I’ve become an expert on how to get cheap tickets to shows in London. My friends ask me how I do it, especially when I’ve got tickets to something that’s sold out and juicy and they can’t find a thing. Well … I do have a few tips and tricks, and I’m more than willing to share them with everyone else. I rarely pay more than twenty pounds for a show, and apparently some people consider this shocking – how do I do it when tickets to so many shows are going for forty, fifty, even sixty quid? Well …

First tip: it’s the day of the show, you want to get cheap tickets, and what do you do? The TKTS booth in Leicester square is a great place to check (especially for shows at Sadlers’ Wells, if you can somehow manage to get back up there once you’ve made it to Leicester Square – a bit of a trick). That said, prices here tend to run around 30 for most shows, and it turns out that’s too expensive for me – but then if you ask for something in the balcony, suddenly the prices drop (it seems they don’t volunteer anything but the best seats without prompting). Save yourself the trip, though, and look at their offerings online – they change daily by around 11 AM. Even our first day we discovered …

Just in: very nice post from VampireSoup on theater for under a tenner, do read!

Second tip: buy directly from the box office of the theater, where you can get tickets for even less than the TKTS booth (though not for main floor tickets). Unfortunately, running around from one theater to the next can be pretty time consuming, so you’ll want to use websites to save time. If you do this, note that it can be hard to tell if you’ve actually Googled the correct site for the theater in question. Be sure to pay attention to the content of the website: any websites you see that have lots of ads for other shows at other theaters on the side of the page are likely to be from ticket touts. There are a whole series of theaters that belong to two theater chains and are very difficult to buy tickets for directly if you’re trying to Google your way there. These chains (the Delfont Mackintosh and the Ambassadors group) together comprise the Gielgud, the Noel Coward, the Novello, the Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, the Queen’s Theatre, Wyndham’s Theatre, the Comedy Theatre, the Donmar, Warehouse Theatre, Duke of York’s Theatre, Fortune Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre, Piccadilly Theatre, Playhouse Theatre, Savoy Theatre, and Trafalgar Studios. I’ve put the link for the groups behind those names; if you buy directly, you’ll be guaranteed a straight price and the lowest booking fees. (Need I mention – never buy from Ticketmaster unless you love paying extra for everything.)

Third tip: save yourself a pile by sitting further from the stage. This is my number one way of saving money: buy from theater’s box office or website and get tickets IN THE BALCONY. For Americans, floor seats are called “stalls” in England; balcony seats (sometimes in a “grand tier” or a “second tier”) will almost always cost less than stall seats. TKTS will sometimes have these seats for sale, but not always. For the Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum, these seats are real money savers – sometimes more than eighty pounds less than stalls seats! Usually you’ll still have clear sitelines. My only word of advice: the top balcony in the Palace Theatre, where Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is playing, is WRETCHED. Pay more or miss half the show – cheap tickets to Priscilla are a poor value. Um, also, the side stalls anywhere in the Royal Opera House are always a crapshoot, with anywhere from half to two thirds of the stage hidden. (Fortunately their website has a little feature to show you exactly the view from where you’re sitting, so you can at least be warned, and if you’re looking at paying 6 quid for the Bolshoi, you’d better expect to not be getting much.)

Fourth tip: Lastminute.com. While they irritate me a lot at times, these guys can really save you a bundle, although you’ll save the most if you book a month or more in advance. Sometimes they don’t really offer deals at all, especially, say, for Hairspray: for that play, you’ll likely save more closer in if you book through SeeTickets. I don’t use general ticket consolidators, but LastMinute can be really great and will usually equal the price of day shows at TKTS, only without the hassle of having to go to the booth in person and then truck back to the theater.

Fifth tip: buy in advance for popular shows. Missed Othello at the Donmar? Sad about getting shut out of King Lear? Hot shows go fast and you had better pay attention to when the tickets go on sale so you can be first in line. I bought my Lear tickets four months in advance and could have sold them for four times what I paid for them. Sometimes my friends think I’m bizarre for planning so far in advance, but I’m the one who went to see Masque of the Red Death and they’re the ones wishing they could get tickets even for, oh, say, APRIL. Buying in advance will give you more price flexibility than buying the day of and will give you the freedom of not paying some horrible marked up price from a tout – even though you’re paying retail, it’s still only retail and not any more.

Sixth tip: right, so you are now desperate to see a show and it’s sold out. Suck it up and go to the box office, get your butt in line, and wait for returns. Americans would never think of doing this, but in London, well, there are people like me who buy tickets four months in advance … and get colds so dire they can’t get out of bed. Those forty pound apiece tickets? I’d actually like to get my money back for them, so I call the ticket and tell them to resell them for me. My loss, your gain. Maybe. Be aware you may only have the choice of a fifty or sixty pound seat when you’re doing this, and bring the cash to pay for it. Also have backup plans as there may be more people in line than there are returns available. And if you see a great review for a show early in the run, buy tickets right away; a small venue like the Soho Theatre can easily sell out within hours of a good review in The Metro.

Seventh tip: get a large group together and get a bulk discount. I know, for example, at the Old Vic, that a group booking can get you something like a 50% savings on tickets. I don’t have nine friends that can do the same thing at the same time, but you might.

Eighth tip: standing “seats.” This works for the Royal Opera House and the Donmar, which both hold out seats for standing for sale the day of show. though I’m not sure where else. I personally have done standing once or twice and won’t be doing it again; a three hour opera will really take your taste for this kind of theatrical experience.

Ninth tip (another one for sold out shows): be persistent. Hit the website again and again in the days before the show, and call the theater about every hour day of show and ask if they’ve had returns yet. I get shows this way for every show I want to see. Day of show, the Royal Opera House releases about sixty five seats when the box office opens, and you can buy them online (some of them for six quid, a damn fine deal for one of the world’s best ballet companies); the Donmar holds, I believe, ten seats for day of show sales but you can only get them in person. The National also holds a few seats for day of show at ten pounds each, also only available in person. This is how we got to see Coram Boy, and, I tell you, it was worth being a little late for work.

Tenth tip: see a show early. Previews are a budget conscious theater-goers friend, and often times it’s the first two weeks of a long run the theater will be working hardest to fill seats (and selling them on LastMinute). The Lyric Hammersmith (really not that far from the center!) sells tickets for the preview week at nine quid each for every show in the house – if they hadn’t, I would have never managed to see Alan Cumming in The Bacchae.

Eleventh tip: the Travellex £12 series at the National Theatre. There is really no better theater deal in town. Find out what is going to be on in the series, and just book your damned tickets as soon as they go on sale. If you ultimately can’t use them – I mean, you’re out TEN POUNDS. Just buy them. Buy them now. (Did I mention how great Major Barbara is? Well, so I heard from The West End Whingers, and, well, even if they’re wrong, it was ONLY TEN POUNDS. But I bought tickets anyway just based on their review, because they are usually spot on with the good stuff.)

Twelfth tip: become a friend of the theater. This is often not useful for out of towners, but my membership at Sadlers’ Wells has saved me piles (two free tickets plus a discount – in addition to their usual “buy two or more shows and save” discount), and my membership at The Donmar was the only way I could have ever made it into Othello. You’ll also get special deals in the mail (or email) that aren’t available to the general public, plus it’s a good way to support the arts. If you’re a Londoner, I recommend you do this and put your theater loving heart where your wallet is. After all, you’ve saved all this money – don’t you want to give it back to the people who do so much to make your free time a pleasure?

Thirteenth tip: try going any night but Friday and Saturday. I’m sorry, that’s when EVERYONE wants to see a show and is willing to pay for the privilege. Make plans for Monday through Thursday – more shows come up on TKTS, better prices are available through LastMinute, more people go, “God, I just can’t manage going out and going back to work tomorrow!” and return their tickets, and some theaters just flat out do differential pricing. I spend Fridays and Saturdays at the movies or hanging out with my friends and cram my shows in on weeknights; it’s not as glamorous as going out to the theater on a Friday, but then again if I’m forking out for eight shows a month, I can’t afford to see them only on weekends. And, truth be told, after seeing two shows already, I’m in need of a slightly quieter evening!

Fourteenth tip (new for 2009): I have to add that I’ve had a couple of theatrical miracles thanks to being on the Donmar’s Twitter feed (5 pound tickets to A Doll’s House) and the Ambassador Theatre Group’s email list (5 pound tickets to La Cage Aux Folles, this hits it as my best theater deal of the year). I’d surely subscribe to the Ambassador’s list – they manage so many theaters that you’ll likely get value out of it at least once or twice a year (plus they don’t email you too much, though most of their “deals” are 25 quid “best seats” that aren’t either deals or even “best” as I’ve ranted before).

Fifteenth tip (new for 2011): keep your eyes peeled for those ever important promotional codes. A really good place to find them is the Metro, though some other newspapers (like the Evening Standard) will also offer them. I recently found a website, Theatre Monkey, that has a good list of current codes for both theater and dance – a really helpful resource if you’re not able to collect a copy of the Metro every morning to see if some good deal has come up. And the Bargain Theatre website is also really good for deals, which they also broadcast through a Twitter feed ( @bargaintheatre ).

Sixteenth tip (new for 2013 but not really new): why not try some of the “fringe” theater spaces? Some of the best theater in London is happening at the Union Theatre, the Southwark Playhouse (or will be when they’ve moved into their new space), and the Young Vic, and there’s no doubt you will get a fine value for money for most shows at the (not really fringe) Menier Chocolate Factory and the Royal Court. And these are only some of the many wonderful venues available across London – there’s also the Almeida, the Arcola, the Finborough, the Landor Pub Theater, the Gatehouse … the list of great, affordable venues doing shows with top quality talent at bargain basement prices goes on and on. We really are spoiled for choice in London – so do yourself a favor, read some of the theater blogs, and look away from the West End now and then – you’ll be surprised at how much good stuff never makes it to a giant theater.

Seventeenth tip: Monday morning £10 ticket sales. For the Donmar, these are each Monday at 10 AM for shows that week: for the Royal Court, there are some ticket sales for their Monday £10 shows at 9AM the Monday of the show (both upstairs and downstairs), which is especially helpful for sold-out shows.

A final tip: for a show that’s going to run a long time, be patient. A lot of shows will run in London for a year or more, and just because you couldn’t afford to go for your birthday doesn’t mean you can’t get tickets four months later at TKTS or LastMinute. I’ve seen it for Spamalot and it will happen for Hairspray: after time, ticket prices will become more flexible, though this may occur around the time the original fabulous cast members head back to Hollywood/New York/their vacation home in the Riviera. TKTS provides a pretty good barometer on a daily basis of how well a show is selling, so use it as your guide as to whether or not you’ll be able to find price flexibility. If you haven’t seen it on the board for two weeks (and they’re actually selling it there), you will have to wait if you want to get it for less. (FYI, if you want to see Billy Elliot, just give up and buy balcony seats – that sucker never goes on sale. Over a month of watching it only came up ONCE on TKTS. I don’t personally recommend the show, but if you’re hot to go, just buck up and fork over the dough – and remember, balcony seats will run you £35, and since it’s what the market will bear … you’ll have to pay the piper … or try getting a group rate instead.)