London and New York have plenty in common: iconic transit systems, neighborhoods called Soho and Chelsea, and among the English-speaking world’s finest theater (or in UK orthography, theatre). In fact, the London versions of Soho and Chelsea, rather than being the visual art and fashion hubs that they are in the Big Apple, are part of the West End, London’s theater capital.
Mind, London’s reach as a cultural capital also extends to music, performance art and dance. But the city’s artistic richesse often comes with a stiff price.
Snare some bargains with tkts, the Society of London Theatre’s discount ticket window. Originally dubbed the Half-Price Ticket Booth, the Leicester Square spot offers discounted and half-price tickets for performances from as soon as the day of purchase to as far as one week in advance. Available shows are posted on tkts’ website as well as on the side of the booth.
Beyond theater, there are also tickets on offer for musicals, comedy, opera and dance. Visa and MasterCard are accepted, as well as European bank cards Maestro and Solo and theatre tokens. Buyers beware: there are several ticket windows in the vicinity looking to leech off of the tkts name, despite having no affiliation with the organization. Take no prisoners. More intrepid visitors can also avail of the tkts location at the suburban Brent Cross shopping center, where lines may be shorter. Keep in mind that this location only accepts payment via Visa, MasterCard or theatre tokens—no cash. Public transport is available to the mall by way of the Hendon Central station on the Northern Line of the London Underground.
At this point, you might be wondering what exactly are theatre tokens? Essentially, they’re gift cards for London theatre. Available in denominations of 5, 10 and 20 pounds, you can order them online from theatretokens.com or purchase them in person at bookstore chains WHSmith and Waterstone’s.
If you want to get ahead in your play scheduling before you take off for Old Blighty, try the Official London Theatre website, www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk, to keep abreast of deals and performance schedules. You can also purchase theatre tickets via the website, as well as subscribe to its weekly email newsletter.
For those hardy travelers for whom time is more plentiful and money, consider queuing for day-of tickets at the theatre in the morning. Generally there is a limit of two tickets per person. Contact the individual theater for details; check out Official London Theatre’s website for an online directory.
One sure bet for affordable tickets is at the Royal Court Theatre, in the Sloane Square area of Chelsea—certainly soothing to one’s budget after spending a day shopping in the nabe. On Mondays, all seats at its Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and Jerwood Theatre Upstairs are 10 pounds; available for purchase starting the respective Monday at 9 a.m. online and 10 a.m. in person at the ticket window. Students can get 5-pound tickets to shows at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and to previews and matinees at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.
Under 26? Cash in on that Gen Y status and get tickets to the downstairs stage for 8 pounds. And if your feet are up to the task, get standing tickets for 10p. Yes, that’s 10 pence. If you’re feeling peckish, book a table to the Royal Court Theatre’s Café, located in the basement. The theater is located next to the Sloane Square tube station on the Circle and District Lines, in Chelsea.