How To See 5 Shows for £55

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Sometimes people tell me “I never go to the theatre, it’s too expensive!”

Or they just look at me with quiet shock as I list all the shows I’ve seen.

But I’m not exactly made of money, nor do I live on instant ramen to fuel my addiction of choice. I don’t smoke, though: I stopped when I realised that two packets would cost me more than a Legally Blonde ticket.

Legally Blonde. Please imagine me exhaling a wistful sigh as I type, and staring back into the distance, clearly ready for an extended flashback.

Because, you see, in the dark days of LiveJournal, when I had just moved to London, I had on my profile something about how much I loved musicals. Then this total weirdo contacted me out of the blue with a lurid proposal of £10 first row tickets for Legally Blonde… and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s the other mom of this blog. Say hi to Alex.

Alex introduced me to the fabulous world of the dayseats. Also known as the marginally less fabulous world of dragging yourself out of bed in the middle of the night, no matter the weather, and going to sit in front of theatre box office until it opens, so that you can be first in line and grab those sweet, sweet cheap seats. Cheap, and usually good. Some theatres (like the Apollo Victoria or the National Theatre) will even reserve the first row for these. And it’s not always that bad, if no one tragically famous is performing you might have to queue for just a couple of hours.

So without further ado, let’s dive into my birthday extravaganza of a five shows week!

(Not that I ever need an excuse to treat myself to a show, let’s be honest. But this was my birthday gift to myself, and was going to be capital-G Good.)

On Monday, I entered a few lotteries.

Oh, did I forget to mention the lotteries? They are a tragic US import. I don’t like them. One of my closes friends absolutely adores them. Either way, if you want to get to the West End without breaking the ban, TodayTix is (one of) the way(s) to go. It’s an app. Because absolutely everything is an app these days. (Did I mention that I just turned 25? I am old. I grew up without a mobile phone, that’s how old.) You enter your name into a draw, usually before 15:30, and within one or two hours you’re told whether you’ve got the ticket or not. It’s often way cheaper than booking in advance. Case in point: I got to see Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre for just £15. In the first row. Oooh, yes.

The show was right up my alley. At one point, even the background was made of glitter. And the singing was spectacular. It was a Monday, so I didn’t get the celebrity protagonist, but there was absolutely nothing missing.

On Tuesday, I went to one of my favourite places, the Globe Theatre. Proud groundling since 2002. (The story of how I fell in love with the place is for another time.) I had missed Nell Gwynn during its original run and West End transfer in 2015, so I was incredibly happy to get a second chance to catch this modern restoration comedy. It has a complex, kickass and hilarious heroine… and a bit with a dog! What’s not to love?

Standing tickets at the Globe are just a fiver, but if you book online you have to shell out £2.50 in booking fees. It’s 50% if the ticket! So I went in person the day before to book.

On Wednesday… I went back for more. What was I supposed to do? Nell Gwynn closed that week, and I simply had to see again! And take all of my friends with me. This time I went for an evening show, rather than the 2pm performance. Ah, the joys of modern lighting!

The Wipers Times at the Arts Theatre on Thursday was the single most expensive ticket, at a staggering £24.90. But oh so worth it. The Wipers Times is a fun and moving story set during WWI, in the trenches around the town of Ypres. Fun?, I can hear you asking, How is a play set in the trenches fun? Well, it is thanks to the sense of humour of a small group of soldiers, who find themselves with a printing press and decide to start publishing a satirical journal about the war. It’s inspired by a true story and, if you didn’t catch the show, you can still watch the 2013 movie.

On Friday morning I was supposed to go queue up at the National Theatre to catch the last performance of Twelfth Night. But when I heard my alarm go off at 7am, I decided that it was simply too early to deal with life, and went back to sleep. I still went to the National, only later. They had no dayseats left (they usually cost £15), but I could still come back at 6pm and wait for returns. Queueing for returns gives you no guarantee that you will actually find a ticket, or that you will find one you can afford, but it is usually worth trying. Especially when a show sells out very early in the run (Twelfth Night had, thanks in part to Tamsing Greig’s fame), people realise later on that they can’t actually go see that play they booked for five months ago. And when this happens… I am usually there waiting. This time, however, I did not get a return, but a standing ticket. They only sell them if it’s sold out, on the day of the performance. And they are just £5. You will be standing in the circle, quite far from the stage, but the view is really good. In this instance, for example, the really impressing moving set looked even better from that vantage viewpoint. I moved to the front row during the interval, because there were like five free seats! I could see them from my spot, and it was just wrong. No first row should ever be empty.

Now, about changing seats: some theatres will ask people to move forward if there are free places closer to the front. Others will do quite the opposite and prevent you from moving. Some places have a policy in place so that if you purchase a standing ticket, you can’t sit even if there are free places. Usually, I would advise to ask. However, I could not find a single usher on my way to the stalls, so I just sat down. If you work at the National and are reading this… sorry?

Aaaand that’s it for today!

[written by Alice di Mattia; edited by Alessandra Cenni]

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