London Theatre Guide: 10 Tips & Tricks

Post submitted by Austin Adams, a Theatre Academy London program participant and Theatre major at FSU.

Austin outside of Buckingham Palace in London.
Austin outside of Buckingham Palace in London.

Studying abroad is obviously filled with all the built-in cultural opportunities you could ever want, but being abroad could never be complete without looking for a little bit of adventure and opportunity on your own.

I’m a theatre major which, not shockingly at all, makes me constantly aware of and hyped up about the next best play or musical coming out, not to mention all the classics that everyone loves (IE: Wicked, Chicago, etc.).

With that being said, the adventure of seeing theatre outside the United States was one I was unbelievably excited for. The theatre scene in the US is well known all over the world. Who HASN’T heard of Broadway? But theatre lovers and scholars alike know that some of the greatest theatrical spectacle can also be found in the UK. I mean, some the most standard forms we know today were established there (I see you Willy Shakespeare). My curriculum while studying abroad in the FSU Theatre Academy London (TAL) program included one, if not multiple shows to go see on a weekly basis. The opportunity pushed me to seek out and consume even more theatre on my own. So, whether you’re a theatre major or just a showtune loving screlter, below are my top 10 tips and tricks for seeing theatre while abroad in London.

Austin in London under a poster for The Inheritance show.

Tickets are CHEAP!

This is more of a fact than a tip, but I would just like to say that theatre going is much more financially friendly in the UK than it is in the US. I saw a show with great seats that had just premiered on the West End (The UK’s Broadway) for just £35! That roughly equates to $44, which if you’ve ever been to a show in New York, you know is a STEAL!

Rush/Return Tickets

If you’re not necessarily a huge theatre goer, you may not know of the blessing that is rush/return tickets. Rush/return tickets are tickets that get sold at a reduced price either because they are seats that have been left unsold or tickets that have been returned by someone who is unable to attend but already purchased them. These tickets are sold to the public on the day of the performance, and generally early in the morning. SO, if you’re willing to get up and head to the theatre you may just find a real steal of a price. My friend saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (a particularly hot ticket right now, even in the UK) for only £40.

Student Prices

Many many many places have accessible student prices! Generally speaking you might not find deals like this for West-End shows, but more regional theatres may offer this, so never be afraid to ask or call!

The West-End

Like I said earlier, this is very much the UK equivalent of Broadway, with plenty of musicals and plays to satisfy all your theatrical cravings. The West-End is generally the more expensive theatre experience, but it’s also some of the highest production value you can find, so really who’s complaining? It’s located in central London near SO-HO (Right near the study center) and crosses all the way across The River Themes to the national theatre. You’ll find a lot of classic American showstoppers in the west-end as well as some great original British works.

Off the West-End

Off the West-End is the same as our idea of off Broadway. And fun fact for those that ridiculously think “Off Broadway” means the show wasn’t good enough to be on Broadway: the “Off” really just indicates the number of seats available in the venue. That’s it. These shows are usually just as great in production value, and sometimes even end up moving to the west end because their popularity grows to heights where they need greater seat number access.

Devised Theatre

Mainstream theatre not your thing? You wanna get a little indie with your arts? Well, whether the mainstream is your thing or indie is your thing, Devised theatre is some of the coolest work you can possibly see. Devised theatre is the idea of producing theatre from the ground up as a team. There generally isn’t a single director, and every part of the process is a collaboration amongst an ensemble of individuals. These groups make the entire show (script, blocking, music, etc) themselves. The creativity that is showcased seems almost unbelievable, so if you’re interested in seeing what’s theatrically possibly with some of the simplest means, definitely seek out some devised theatre. A google search or a quick conversation with some theatre professors at the study center could lead you to some interesting work to watch.

Don’t Diss Plays

We all love a musical. HOWEVER, plays have just as much theatrical promise and worth as their musical counterpart. I gained a huge appreciation for plays while studying abroad. My favorite show at the moment (The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez) is actually a play I saw over that that impacted me so deeply I found myself wanting to be a playwright. Catch my work on Broadway in 20-IDK.

Mark Wheatley

The head of the TAL program at the London Study center. He is a wealth of knowledge in the London theatre world. Never be afraid to talk to him about any great theatre opportunities that you can take advantage of. The man knows his stuff. He’s also super nice and has a voice that makes his feel like a sage.

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Alone

Never be afraid to go see a show alone. Obviously if you’re deeply uncomfortable, maybe not. BUT if you’re willing to journey outside your comfort zone and go see a show alone, definitely do it. If nobody else is willing to go, but you’re dying to see that show, make it a date night for you. Self-Care

My Theatre Rec’s

  • Waitress
  • Wicked
  • Les Miserables
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Anything at the National Theatre!
  • War-Horse (If you see that it’s on)

I hope this little guide helped you gain some inspiration to go see as much theatre as possible while in London. There’s never enough time to soak it all up, so get as much as you can while you can! And as always, break a leg!

To learn more about FSU’s TAL program and other London programs, visit international.fsu.edu.

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