Dance, Musicals, News & Commentary, Opera, Stage, Theatre

Theatre on a dime: our cheap ticket guide to Australia

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Theatre might be a relatively safe, healthy addiction, but it’s certainly not a cheap one. With major theatre companies always creeping up their ticket prices, and major musicals now consistently going well above the $100 mark, theatre mightn’t seem quite as accessible as it has been in the past.

But there are ways of grabbing yourself a seat without breaking the budget. We originally published this guide back in 2014, but with the announcement of the Arts Centre Melbourne’s new tixatsix program and Opera Australia’s new access program, we thought now was the right time to revisit and update our guide.


Many theatre companies and orchestras offer last minute rush tickets, subject to availability. If you’re particularly lucky, you can find yourself in some of the best seats in the house for a fraction of the price. State Theatre Company of South Australia offers company rush tickets to matinee and Wednesday evening performances for $30, and Sydney Theatre Company in 2013 introduced the “Suncorp Twenties”, which sees the release of a number of tickets for the week’s performances each Tuesday morning for $20.

The Arts Centre Melbourne also has a new rush program in place called tixatsix, which makes 20 tickets available for performances at the Centre each night at 6pm for $30 each. Just join the queue at the box office and be ready to complete your purchase.


Most major companies have single youth tickets (usually under 30s) at a substantial discount (Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan Theatre, to name just a few). Most have youth subscriptions too, as does Opera Australia, which offers majorly discounted tickets to subscribers under 30.


Opera Australia last year introduced a ballot system allowing audience members who mightn’t otherwise be able to attend their productions the chance to purchase tickets for $20. Tickets through the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation Access Program are available to performances at the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre, Melbourne.


A subscription is obviously much cheaper than buying single tickets to everything in a company’s season, but a few companies have started to offer discounts for subscribers who get in early.


Most companies charge higher prices for weekend performances, given that they’re generally in higher demand. So if you can get along to, say, a Tuesday night performance, you can save quite a bit of money.


Most mainstage productions will have at least a few previews with discounted tickets available. You might want to aim for the final preview, as (hopefully) by then, the performers and technical elements will have settled by then and be ready for opening night.


In Melbourne, the Halftix box office offers discount day-of show tickets, similar to Broadway’s TKTS discount booths. There aren’t permanent, physical discount box offices in other cities anymore, but Lasttix offers substantial last minute discounts online to users who have subscribed to their mailing list.


Several companies around the country offer cheap, or free tickets to unwaged members of the public. In Sydney, Belvoir offers complimentary tickets to certain Thursday matinee performances to anybody with a Pensioner Card, Health Care Card, Veterans’ Affairs Card, MEAA or Equity Cards. In Adelaide, the State Theatre Company of South Australia offers pay-what-you-can tickets to Wednesday evening and all matinee performances to people who hold a Healthcare Card or Pensioner Concession Card.


A lot of big commercial shows will, towards the end of their run, drop their prices. Don’t expect it to happen anytime soon with major commercial hitsbut if there’s a show that isn’t completely selling out, it might be worth waiting a little while to see what happens as it reaches the end of its stay in a city. Musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors, Georgy Girl and Heathers now all have discounted tickets available (all through Lasttix).


And, of course, independent theatre is usually much more affordable (anywhere from around $15 to $40), and a lot of it of a very high quality. It might seem that you’re taking a bigger risk when you purchase tickets for an independent show, but if you learn which companies and artists you connect with, indie theatre can be just as rewarding as anything you’ll see on mainstages.

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