A lot of people in my life, whether it’s my work colleagues, family or people on the internet, ask me how on earth I afford going to the theatre as much as I do. Whilst I shouldn’t have to justify how and why I spend my money on what I do, I know that some people want to know how I manage to get to as many shows as I do. Affording theatre is never going to be cheap, but there are always get arounds!
The number one way that I afford going to the theatre is that I make it a priority. I used to spend my money on alcohol as a student, beauty products when I started this blog, and now I spend my disposable income on going to the theatre. My priority is making at least one Saturday trip to London per month, which means I can fit in a matinee and an evening performance for as little as £40 including my train fare. Yes, I’m fortunate enough to live to London to get a cheap day return, but it’s also something that I’ve made a priority.
I also prioritise seeing a lot of theatre over sitting in the ‘good’ seats. Whilst I do agree that some seats are worth the extra money, usually for the leg room above anything else, I have short legs and the difference between a £15 seat and a £50 seat is usually pretty limited. At The Book of Mormon I have sat in the front row, fifth row, middle of the circle and at the very rear of the circle. The view and experience from the fifth row was by far the best, but I was still as enthralled being at the back and only paying £20. I can hand on heart say I have never personally spent more than £40 for a ticket, and they’ve always been for productions that I couldn’t get cheaper seats for.
I constantly look out for offers. For example, in the West End Does The Magic of Animation programme was a promo code for 10% off Theatre Tokens. I bought a few vouchers so that I was able to essentially get 10% off a couple of tickets. Today Tix often have low price seats, and recently have been selling second-price seats for £15 for the following 30 days on a Monday. If you want to look more into cheap seats, definitely check out my guide to cheap tickets.
I struggle to avoid off-peak due to working term time only, but if you can take mid-week trips then you’ll save a lot of money on theatre tickets. If we look at the cheapest seats for Kinky Boots on your average week, the cheapest seat will cost you £19.50 on a Tuesday, but the same ticket will cost you £25 on a Saturday. Admittedly saving money is not necessarily the case for me, as trains cost me £10 more per journey mid-week and I rarely save quite that much on a ticket, which is definitely something worth looking at for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that mid-week, out of school holiday time, West End shows rarely sell out. Unless you’re looking for the likes of Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis and Wicked, which are generally popular, booking a cheap seat may lead to an upgrade. If the seats at the front haven’t sold, they will often move people down I’ve had a few over my time thanks to my insistence on not paying a lot of money for theatre. I saw The Commitments in 2014 and paid £15 for a balcony seat. The balcony was closed and I was moved to the fifth row of the stalls, a seat selling for £100. The same happened when I saw Half A Sixpence last summer – my £13 balcony seat was upgraded to a £97 Royal Circle seat (the same couldn’t be said for the Half A Sixpence closing night unfortunately). Upgrades are not a guarantee, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
I rarely book my tickets more than a week in advance unless there is something that I am desperate to see and think it might sell out. For example, this weekend I’ll be seeing The Rink which is my second show at Southwark Playhouse this year. I thought that this would be a sellout like Pippin was in March after reading such great reviews, so I had to make sure I had it booked! Booking last minute can definitely save you some money, but if a theatre operates dynamic pricing it’s worth getting your theatre plans down early and booking well in advance.
The final way that I manage to afford the theatre as much as I do isn’t something I rely on, but something I’m lucky to get. I am fortunate enough to receive press invites to see shows both locally, regionally and in London, but I never expect this. If there is a show that I am desperate to see, I will never expect an invite and will book to see the show myself. However, I’ve seen some incredible productions that I may have never booked myself without being offered press tickets. This is no different than fashion bloggers receiving clothes, travel bloggers receiving hotel stays and beauty bloggers receiving makeup. I am a theatre blogger, and I receive theatre tickets to review shows on my blog. However, if I look at the first five months of this year, I have seen 30 shows and theatre-related concerts, only around a third were press tickets. I pay for the majority of shows myself because it’s genuinely what I enjoy.
So I go to the theatre a lot, but it’s what I enjoy and whilst I’m young enough with very few responsibilities, I am more than happy to spend my money on it. I’ve found a niche that I don’t constantly feel like I’m fighting to get noticed, and it’s a nice that I love being a part of.
Ultimately, affording to go to the theatre is all about prioritising. Whether you promise yourself one theatre trip a year or one theatre trip a month, it’s something that I urge you to do as regularly as you can afford to.