How to see outstanding theatre on a budget

Because the prettiest thing about the theatre shouldn’t be the price tag.

My early memories of the theatre are of my mum taking me as a child. We’d dress up in nice clothes, drive a couple of hours to Sydney, and spend a glorious afternoon immersed in musicals like Wicked, Billy Elliot and Saturday Night Live.

But then I grew up, and I had to buy my own theatre tickets. I quickly learned that the musicals I knew, typically the spectaculars that tour Australia from Broadway and the West End, cost a lot more than what a uni student with a part-time pizza delivery job could afford.

So, for a while, I didn’t see anything.

Dark times.

Fortunately, I’ve since learned just how enormous Australia’s theatre scene actually is, and the many options for budget-conscious enthusiasts.  

So, I’m here to make sure no one else makes my mistakes or misses any more of the amazing stories Aussie storytellers share with us each year.

Scroll for my tried and tested tips for finding outstanding theatre on a budget.

1. Read reviews of independent theatre shows

Some of my favourite ever shows were by tiny, hole-in-the-wall theatre companies, and at around $20-35 for a ticket, a compelling synopsis is always worth a gamble.

But if you’re not quite ready to part with your hard-earned cash on an unknown theatre, a good review can be your best friend – particularly when they come with a handy wine pairing (wink wink).

Reviews should give you an idea of whether a particular show is for you, offering some direction as you get started. Even after you’ve taken your local theatre training wheels off, I use reviews to choose what to see when the timing of multiple shows clashes, or I want to learn more about the show.

2. Under 30s and over 60s to the front on Tuesdays

There are very few theatres that won’t do some sort of special. While pensioner discounts are nothing new, an increasing number of theatres are also offering discounts for under 25s or under 30s. I’m hoping it’s out of a genuine commitment to creating a new generation of theatre enthusiasts and not because they need to fill seats while the economy is in the bin – it’s probably a bit of both, but we’ll take the win!

Another hack is to find out whether your favourite theatre does discounts on any one day, like a cheap-Tuesday or a thrifty-Thursday, when tickets to a particular show are massively discounted for a short period of time.

3. Invest in a Season Pass

A season pass is something most professional theatre companies will offer every year or six months, which allows you to buy tickets to multiple shows at once in a discounted bundle.

They can lead to big savings so are a great option if you have the means to afford it and are also a great gift for friends and family members.

This recommendation should definitely be taken with a grain of salt – season passes are a bigger fork-out initially, as you’re buying tickets to multiple shows at once – so there is an element of privilege involved in having those funds available. One way to get around this is to look up season pass release dates at your favourite theatres and save up in the meantime.

4. There’s an app for everything

Including discounted theatre tickets! My favourite is TodayTix, which offers discounted day-of tickets to Sydney’s Theatre Royal as well as pre-season promotions on many other theatres, including the Australian Ballet Company and Belvoir Theatre.

It’s as simple as making a free account, nominating your interests and turning on notifications to see when ticket deals go on sale. Recent offers included $45 on-the-day tickets for An American in Paris at Sydney’s Theatre Royal, and they also do cheap ticket lotteries for shows like Hamilton and Moulin Rouge.

Download TodayTix here.

5. Wing It

I did this once in the West End to see The Show That Goes Wrong – turning up at a theatre in the hours before a performance can mean lucking into a few leftover tickets, often at a competitive discount.

Obviously, it’s a gamble. Sometimes there’ll be no tickets or the wrong amount for the number of people you’re with, and sometimes tickets will be available but not discounted. It can work if you have a free afternoon or evening and you’re not picky about where you sit though, so why not give it a shot?

So, there you have it! A world of wonderfully affordable theatre is waiting in the wings.

Happy penny-pinching!

Chantelle Xx