Theatre is one of the oldest forms of entertainment known to man. Comedy, tragedy, music, love; you can find it all somewhere on the stage. And we think there’s nowhere better to discover the delight of theatre than London’s own West End!

The West End is synonymous with incredible productions and the very best the stage has to offer. With a number of our hotels, including Thistle Trafalgar Square and Thistle Piccadilly, sitting on the doorstep of Theatre Land, we want to make sure our guests are clued up on how they can get the most from their London theatre trips.

We’ve surveyed 2,000 UK residents about their theatre habits to discover what information they need to plan the perfect West End trip.

Getting to the Theatre

Most people still see theatre as something to be saved for special occasions. Over half of our survey respondents (55%) said that they reserved theatre visits for birthdays, Christmas and other notable events in their calendar. Although it’s a great way to spend a special occasion, we believe that theatre can be enjoyed on any occasion!

Read our handy hints to show you that the theatre can be for more than just special occasions.

1. “It’s too expensive”: How to limit ticket costs

Almost 6 in 10 UK residents (58%) cite expense as being the major reason they don’t head to the theatre more often. Although West End tickets can seem costly at first (you are paying for world-class performances after all!) there are ways to find cheaper tickets. 

Try some of these tips to make big savings on your theatre trips:

  • Use comparison sites like Compare Theatre Tickets to find the best prices: These sites will search through all the big-ticket providers, including Ticketmaster, to find you the best prices for your chosen performance.
  • Book last minute: The selection of shows might be slightly more limited however you can often find tickets for less if you buy them close to the date you’re going. Big names such as The Lion King and Les Mis are often included in these last-minute reductions, so it’s worth a look.
  • Consider going at unpopular times: Matinees and mid-week shows have cheaper tickets than performances on weekends or in the evening. Pick a date and time where there isn’t so much demand and you’ll make serious savings.

2. “There are no plays near me”: Exploring the West End

Another common frustration for fans of theatre is the lack of quality productions in their local area. One in five (19%) say that the shortage of shows near them limits how often they can go to the theatre.

There are a few ways to get around this. One is to sign up to mailing lists at some of the bigger theatres near you. A lot of West End productions tour around the UK, so there is a chance you’ll be able to see your favourite production as it passes by.

If you don’t fancy hanging around for the West End to come to you however, you can always come to the West End! If you plan ahead and book with a great value hotel like Thistle Trafalgar Square, you can combine world-class theatre with an elegant hotel and a great opportunity to explore everything the capital has to offer.

3. “I’ve got no one to go with”: Going solo at the theatre

12% of people say that they don’t go to the theatre more because they cannot find someone else who wants to see the same production as them. Given people’s reservations over theatre costs, it’s unlikely you’ll convince someone to see a production they’re not keen on. But that’s no reason for you to miss out!

Attending theatre solo is becoming more popular and can be a fantastic experience. To start with, there’s a chance you’ll get cheaper tickets as single audience members can fill the gaps left by larger parties. 

Plus, just because you’re seeing a show alone doesn’t mean you have to make the trip to London by yourself. Why not book a few days in a hotel for yourself and your partner, friends or family? You can each have an evening to yourself to do something just for you.

4. “Family commitments get in the way”: Planning a trip for everyone

12% of people say they struggle to get to the theatre because of childcare and other family commitments. Going to a show the whole family will enjoy can help you overcome this barrier and give kids a new, unforgettable experience.

Taking your whole family to the theatre might seem intimidating at first. There’s a lot to organise and traditional theatre performances of dialogue-based plays could test out your little one’s attention span. Don’t worry, the West End currently has a whole host of shows written and produced with children in mind.

This includes relatively new additions to the stage like Matilda the Musical and long-standing classics like Stomp, Wicked and, of course, The Lion King. These performances are fun, high energy and packed with uplifting tunes. They will keep your kids engaged and mean you don’t have to worry too much about your little fidgeter moving about in absolute silence – it’s all expected as part of the show!

5. “I don’t know what shows are on”: Keeping track of theatre news

A serious struggle when trying to plan theatre trips is keeping track of when the productions you want to see are actually being performed. This is particularly difficult in regional theatres which tend to host touring productions for short times. There’s nothing more infuriating when trying to book tickets than clicking on your local theatre’s website and finding you missed out on your favourite show!

It’s much easier to keep track of shows that are on in the West End, because many big productions, particularly musicals, find their homes in one of the theatres there. So, if you do miss local dates of a production you wanted to see, be sure to check out when it’s next on in London.

Plays and productions do come on and off the West End regularly though, so it’s best to keep up to date with current productions by signing up to a theatre newsletter, especially if you’re thinking about exploring a production outside the big names. The LondonTheatre.co.uk newsletter is a great way to keep up with the latest show alerts.

Planning Your Perfect London Theatre Trip

The Best West End Shows

If you’re planning a trip to the West End but aren’t sure which production you want to see, we’ve gathered recommendations from our survey respondents. When it comes to the most popular production type, 38% said musicals are their favourite thing to see on stage. Here are the top five recommendations:

1. The Lion King

2. Mamma Mia

3. Les Misérables

4. The Phantom of the Opera

5. We Will Rock You

Asked to recommend Shakespeare plays for people to watch, survey respondents returned this top five:

1. Romeo and Juliet

2. Macbeth

3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

4. Much Ado About Nothing

5. The Merchant of Venice

Improving Theatre Knowledge

Our survey also found that we could probably do with dropping in on a few more theatre productions. Despite being voted as the UK’s greatest cultural icon by an international survey, knowledge of classic Shakespeare plays is fairly low amongst the general public.

Asked to identify commonly heard lines from famous Shakespeare productions, less than 16% were able to identify the origins of all six:

  • “To be or not to be, that is the question” Hamlet – Correctly identified by 52%
  • “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” Richard III – Correctly identified by 44%
  •  “What’s in a name? A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet” Romeo and Juliet – Correctly identified by 40%
  •  “All that glitters is not gold!” The Merchant of Venice – Correctly identified by 25%
  • “If music be the food of love, play on” Twelfth Night – Correctly identified by 16%
  • “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” The Tempest – Correctly identified by 16%

When it comes to musicals, however, the British public is far more clued up on which lines come from where. Twice as many people were able to correctly match six lyrics from musicals with the productions they come from. Around 34% were able to identify them all correctly:

  • “The winner takes it all, the loser has to fall” Mamma Mia – Correctly identified by 64%
  •  “I closed my eyes, drew back the curtain, to see for certain, what I thought I knew” Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – 55%
  • “Can you feel the love tonight, the peace the evening brings” The Lion King – Correctly identified by 46%
  • “Memory, all alone in the moonlight” Cats – Correctly identified by 42%
  • “It’s time to try defying gravity, I think I’ll try defying gravity” Wicked – Correctly identified by 34%
  • “I dreamed a dream in time gone by” Les Misérables – Correctly identified by 34%

Hopefully, by following our tips and getting yourself to the theatre more often, you’ll be able to beat the average on our theatre knowledge quiz. If you’re planning a West End trip, take a look at our Thistle Trafalgar Square and Thistle Piccadilly hotels for great value, a fantastic central location, and a bed which is just a stone’s throw away from some of the best theatres in the city.