Free theatre tickets in London? Is it really possible? The answer is a resounding YES! It’s totally possible to get free and cheap theatre tickets in London to West End shows and more. With free tickets, you’ll need to be quite flexible when it comes to timings, what you watch, and the seats that you watch it from. You’re unlikely to get front row seats to sell-out shows. But never say never!
The best chance of getting free seats at at theatre show is to be signed up to lots of different platforms, and check them regularly. It really is a case of using a blanket approach rather than hoping for a lucky opportunity on one platform. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
1. Become a seat filler
A seat filler is used to fill out an audience to make a production seem popular, or more visually appealing if the production is being broadcast. Sometimes, tickets will be very reduced last minute to fill empty seats on West End shows.
So how do you become a seat filler? There are plenty of websites that you can use to find seat filler opportunities and this is usually your best bet to get a free seat to productions in London.
Use websites like SRO audiences (TV audiences), Showfilmfirst, Lost in TV, Applause Store or Central Tickets (usually £4-£15 to get free (or seriously reduced) tickets to theatre, film, and live TV recordings.
2. Kids Week
One for the young, the Official London Theatre offers ‘Kids Week’ once a year during the summer holidays. This is one week a year when the box office allows under 18s to watch theatre productions for free.
The aim is to help families enjoy the theatre on a budget, so that young people are not priced out of experiencing the magic of the West End.
Sign up to their family newsletter to be notified of dates for the next upcoming Kids Week.
3. Sign up to My Box Office
My Box Office is a ‘discreet seat filling service’ for theatre, film, sporting events and concerts. The service covers the whole of the UK, but naturally, there are lots of options in London.
The annual fee to be a member of My Box Office is £15 per year. You’ll have to pay a small admin fee (usually £2-3), but the ticket itself will be free of charge.
Tickets usually become available the day of the production, or 24 hours before. So you will most often have to be flexible when it comes to getting the most out of your membership.
4. Ticket lotteries
Some of the biggest West End shows (think Hamilton, Cabaret, Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter, Matilda) all have daily or weekly ticket lotteries to secure reduced tickets to the shows. The tickets are fairly last minute (some a week in advance) but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re a Londoner. However, these tickets are reduced, rather than free.
That said, TodayTix runs a ticket lottery via their app. Use the Lottery and Rush filters to find show lotteries in London. If selected, you’ll be notified by the app and by email, and you’ll have 30 minutes to claim your tickets. TodayTix also occasionally run free ticket lotteries, so sign up to their app to be the first to hear about it.
5. Theatre schemes for young people
London is home to thousands of young creatives, students, and those with an interest in theatre. So it’s no surprise that there are a few London venues that offer FREE tickets to young people and students.
YOUNG + FREE at Donmar Warehouse London is a free theatre ticket scheme for those aged 16-25. Sign up for their newsletter to be entered into a ballot for your chosen show.
The Young Vic offers a free ticket scheme to young people who live or study is the Lambeth or Southwark area of London.
6. Build up points with SeatPlan
SeatPlan is app that people use to see the ‘real life’ view from their seats before they book tickets to a production. For example, if you are tempted by the price for a seat that says it’s a ‘restricted view,’ you can check just how restricted the view is using SeatPlan.
The reason that we mention SeatPlan here, is that you can use the app to build up points to redeem against theatre tickets. If you’re an avid theatre fan, you can upload photos of the view from your seat, and build up points. Once you have enough points, you can redeem them against the price of a ticket.
How to save money on theatre tickets
So we’ve gone over the ways to get free theatre tickets, but did you know there are also a TON of ways to get cheap or reduced theatre tickets in London and across the UK?
We’ve broken down our favourite methods here, with a further 10 ways to save money on theatre tickets and see those West End shows you’ve always dreamed about seeing!
Use deal websites
Deal websites will usually have some great deals on London theatre tickets (and will usually include a hotel stay or a meal as part of the deal). My favourite website for this is LivingSocial– at the time of writing they have deals for The Lion King, Wicked, Hamilton, SIX and Tina Turner.
Get a last minute deal
When you book theatre tickets last minute, you can often make a pretty decent saving! Think 30-40% off the original price! Ok, it’s not quite as great as free theatre tickets in London, but it comes close.
The best websites to get a last minute deal on theatre tickets are Theatre Tickets Direct (sometimes they have discounts on non-last minute tickets too!) or From The Box Office who are very established sellers. Alternatively you could head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square…
Use TKTS booth in Leicester Square
The TKTS booth in Leicester Square is something of a London icon. As you can see from the photo above, it’s not always packed with queues (although this photo was taken on a weekday afternoon!).
It’s famous for offering last minute tickets to West End productions, and has great discounts. You could visit in the morning to secure tickets to a show that afternoon- that’s how last minute the tickets are!
Alternatively, head to their website to find out more, and have a look at their online deals.
Utilise London Theatre Week
London Theatre Week is an annual event where tickets to West End shows and plays are significantly reduced. The date changes a little every year, so keep track of when the next event is (usually it’s at the end of summer), and book yourself some tickets!
You can find tickets to extremely popular productions for just £15, £25, £35 and £45! So if there’s something you’d like to see this year, schedule a trip around London Theatre Week.
Buy off peak tickets
Just like holidays and travel, theatre does off-peak tickets too. Matinees and mid-week performances is where you will see true off-peak prices.
For the best prices, look for a range of dates, look outside of the kids holidays if you’re looking for a child-friendly performance, and review several websites to get the best deal.
Tickets For Good
Tickets For Good is a place where NHS, charity sector workers and cost of living payment recipients can get free and discounted tickets for shows and events.
The tickets themselves are donated by the UK’s top live event partners. It’s totally free to sign up, and there is a maximum booking fee of £4.75, making it a very affordable way to see shows and events in London if you are eligible.
Use Tesco Clubcard points
If you’re an avid Tesco shopper and collect regular Clubcard points with your groceries, you could consider exchanging your points for theatre ticket vouchers. £0.50 in points can be exchanged for £1 in vouchers. That means that you could get a voucher worth £50, for just £25 worth of points.
Before booking, do check the dedicated ticket websites online to make sure that you are getting the best price before spending your vouchers.
Discounts for young people
If you’re aged 30 or under- good news! You can make the most of being a young person and score some great discounts on theatre tickets. The discounts get even better if you’re under 25 years old, so it’s perfect if you’ve recently moved to London as a new graduate or student.
National Theatre 16-25 tickets are £10 or under year round for anyone in this age bracket. Current showings include The Witches and Kin.
Almeida Theatre offers £5 tickets for under 25s.
Bush Theatre has £5 off for under-30s and students.
Royal Opera House offers £25 tickets for 16-25 year olds under their Young ROH scheme.
Young Barbican offers tickets from £5 for those aged 14-25.
Opt for restricted view tickets
Restricted view tickets are often the cheapest tickets available for any shows, but sometimes the view isn’t all that bad. As per our earlier point, you can check out SeatPlan to see the real-life view from the seats, and decide whether it’s worth it or not.
Pay What You Can tickets
Several London theatres offer a limited number of ‘pay what you can’ tickets for certain performances, so that no-one is excluded from enjoying the theatre in London.
Stratford East offer regular pay what you can performances, starting from £6, and Arcola Theatre were offering ‘pay what you can Tuesdays’ on a limited basis, but they are not currently offering these tickets at the time of writing.
The London ‘Ticket Bank‘ is also open to those impacted by the cost of living crisis. 30 venues across London have signed up to the scheme- sign up and see if you are eligible to receive the ‘donate what you can’ tickets.