How to enjoy London's theatre scene on a student budget
London's thriving theatre scene is famous worldwide. From smaller independent shows to well-known west-end musicals, there's something to suit every taste. And it's right on the doorstep of SOAS!
While living in London, I'd recommend making the most of the city and seeing shows - especially ones you wouldn't usually pick. With a bit of planning and research, there are plenty of ways to enjoy London's theatre scene on a student budget!
Enjoy the bright lights of the West End
West End musicals are probably the most well-known part of London's theatre scene - and for good reason! With shows like Lion King and Wicked (my personal favourites), Mamma Mia, Dear Evan Hansen and Matilda - you are guaranteed a good time. The performances are slick and well-produced: however, they can be expensive.
To get discount tickets for shows, check out TKTS online or at their in-person location at Leicester Square. If you get there early, they usually have cheaper tickets for performances on the same night or the day after. However, get there early not to miss out and prepare to queue with tourists around the year. You can also check the website TodayTix for ticket discounts.
Did you know? There are 39 theatres in the West End alone. The oldest is Theatre Royal Drury Lane which was built in 1663.
See Shakespeare on stage
For over 20 years, from 1590, Shakespeare was living, acting and writing in London and was the part-owner of the Globe Theatre. In 1997, a replica of the original Global Theatre opened on the Southbank - it's an open-air, thatched-roof building with plays around the year. You can see performances for only £5 with a standing ticket. It's a great experience because you're so close to the stage and the actors. But make sure to book it for a sunny day or bring an umbrella - as the space is uncovered!
Are you interested? This September and October, you can go and see The Tempest.
Discover London theatre off the beaten path
London's lesser-known theatres are well worth a visit too! They'll often be a lot more accessible for a student budget or have specific reduced price schemes for students. Plus, you'll get to see many more experimental and contemporary productions. Some of these include:
- The Young Vic has £10 student tickets.
- The Donmar Warehouse has a free ticket lottery for those under 25s.
- The Barbican offers £5, £10, or £15 tickets for under 25s.
- The Royal Court Theatre has cheaper tickets on Mondays.
- The English National Opera offers free tickets for those under 21s.
- Arcola has pay-what-you-can tickets on Tuesdays.
- The National Theatre offers discounted tickets for some shows for those under 25s.
Beat the rush and go to a matinee show
If a show has more than one time slot, make sure to compare the prices for each time available. As a student, you might be able to attend shows during off-peak hours. Earlier performances tend to be cheaper than evening ones.
Sign up to mailing lists to spot an offer
To keep up to date with new performances and good discount deals, sign up for mailing lists at theatres you like. You can also check websites like lastminute.com to make sure you can compare current deals and get the best one for you!
Now, explore what London has to offer and enjoy the show!
About the Author
Agustina Villalba is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and second-year BA Social Anthropology student. She is from Argentina and enjoys reading, trying new types of tea, playing tennis, and travelling. If you want to know more, she is always up for a chat, or follow her Instagram @agustina__villalba.