For today’s post on great theatre that doesn’t cost the earth, I’m going to focus on two powerhouse theatres that have been producing some phenomenal work recently (something that was brought home to me when I did my review of 2016 theatre and realised how many of my favourite shows were in these two venues). They are the National Theatre and The Young Vic.
The joy with both of these theatres is that if you are organised, you can see amazing theatre at a fraction of the price of standard West End theatre. Youngsters, there are additional deals for you, so do check out their websites if you are mid-twenties or younger, but this blog post is strictly equal opportunities when it comes to the age of the theatre-goer, so these tips are good for all.
The National Theatre
There are several ways to get seats for £15 at the National Theatre. Some of them are more “open to all” than others.
In the Lyttleton and the Olivier theatres they have rows of what I affectionately call “squidgy seats” at the front (after a long show I reserve the right to start calling them “devil seats”). These do not have the arm support or the leg room of the standard seats behind them. It gets very cosy in there, particularly for long plays, so if you manage to nab a spot in these £15 seats travel light, you’ll resent any bags eating up precious foot space. The only struggle with these seats is getting them. They are limited to 2 per person to ensure as many people as possible have a chance of securing them. However, they do have a tendency to go during the priority booking phase which isn’t great for the budget theatre-goer as it requires you to become a member (and National Theatre membership even at the lowest level is more expensive than most at £80). I’d argue it is worth it if you’re going to see multiple shows at the National and want to have a better chance of £15 squidgy goodness (FYI, there is no squidgy equivalent at the Dorfman, at least not that I’ve been able to find).
Alternatively there are also the shows that offer Travelex tickets. And the great news is that there are two exciting new shows (Common and Salome) in the new season that do. These will go on public sale on 24th February and are both in the Olivier. There are hundreds of £15 tickets available in the balcony. If you’re lucky you may even find the odd stray squidgy seat available up front, but I know that for Common I’ve had to settle for a balcony spot, even with my priority booking advantage. Maybe I’ll see you there.
In addition to travelex the National Theatre offer £20 tickets as part of Friday Rush. Now Friday Rush is great, not just because £20 can be a bargain depending on what seat you manage to nobble, but also because it offers you a chance to get tickets to otherwise sold out performances. CAVEAT KLAXON – Angels in America will not be available as part of Friday Rush. However, apparently they will be releasing £20 ticket for Angels separately, you can sign up to find out more here: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/angels-in-america/information-email-sign-up
Friday Rush tickets go on sale every Friday at 1pm online. Tickets are available for shows the following week, all at £20. Limited to 2 tickets per person. I’ve taken advantage of this before and have secured some really good seats, so it is well worth checking out.
The Young Vic
Love this venue (no 2 on my favourites list), great place to go and make a night of it. Have a meal, cocktails, chat and a post show recovery gin (needed if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for the repeat run of Yerma this year, it packs a punch!). Home of some truly stunning theatre, they have several different spaces they use.
Main Stage: is numbered seating, so you can get some cheap seats if you go for up back in the balcony. The joy of this space is that, unlike old style west end theatre, even at the back you aren’t so far from the stage that you need binoculars. If you like a bit of a gamble the Young Vic offer £10 Lucky Dip tickets. For £10 they will allocate you the best available tickets. Odds are these will be at the back, particularly in the big sold out shows, but still an absolute bargain to see some of the best theatre in town.
The Maria: is a second more intimate space. All preview tickets go fast as they are only £10 (although having looked at the website just now, they still have £10 tix available for the very first preview performance of Taha, so if you hustle you could secure those). It is a free seating space, so you get to pick your seat on the night. Worth getting there at least 15 mins before to get a spot in the queue. It is a smaller space, so you will never be far from the action, but I find that free-seating makes me pathologically competitive. I am far from alone in this, there are other rabid theatre-goers out there, cross us at your peril.
Even if you can’t get the £10 preview tickets, a full price ticket in the Maria ranges from £20-25 – depending on the day of the week you go. This is another venue that encourages us worker bees to take a break and let our imaginations fly earlier in the week. I’m a big fan of Monday night theatre trips (although my friends would question what day of the week I wouldn’t be prepared to go to the theatre and they’d have a point).
Finally there is The Clare another intimate space. I won’t dwell on this too much as a quick review of their website shows me that the productions in this venue are now sold out. If they add new shows or extra nights though, it is well worth going. No tricks for cheap tickets in this space, as they all range between £10-£15, the key is being on the Young Vic mailing list, so you know when new seasons go on-sale and can nab tickets before they’re all gone. I’m not the only person that’s noticed that the Young Vic are producing and hosting amazing stuff at the moment.
Hope the above is helpful and encourages people to give more theatre a try. It really doesn’t have to be limited to wallet-shrivelling West End musicals, London theatre has so much more to offer.
Next week I’ll be back with part 3, when I’ll share yet more of my favourite places for brilliant, yet affordable, theatre.