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Look after the pennies: Theatre ticket schemes in and around Birmingham

Written by
Heather Kincaid

As any passionate play-goer or music-lover knows, seeing shows can be an expensive hobby. But provided you know where to look, enjoying live performance needn't leave you out of pocket. Aside from standard concessions and group deals, there are plenty of ways to catch a show on the cheap. Here are some of the best in and around Birmingham.

Birmingham Hippodrome: First Night
If you're aged between 16 and 23, you're lucky enough to be able to catch touring shows on opening nights at the Birmingham Hippodrome for as little as £5 or £10. The huge, spectacular productions that the theatre typically stages sometimes come with hefty price tags, so this scheme represents a significant saving for those young enough to make use of it. Simply register to join the scheme online or over the phone, and be ready to claim quickly once tickets go on sale

Credit: Paul Coltas, via Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham REP: Preview Club and Director's Choice
Theatres often have spaces to fill at previews and press nights, which means that tickets can be cheaper earlier in a show's run. By creating a Preview Club for 14-30 year olds, the REP has made a feature of this, offering a limited number of £5 tickets for preview nights to those who register by calling the box office.

Meanwhile, if you're over 30 or looking to see more than one show, you can also take advantage of the Director's Choice scheme. A kind of discount-based recommendation programme, Director's Choice pairs up similar or contrasting plays in any given season, offering £5 reductions on the price of each ticket to those who book both together (the discount is automatically applied to online bookings). The full list of Director's Choice pairings can be found in the season brochure.

Royal Shakespeare Theatres: RSC Key and preview discounts
A short drive or train ride from the city are Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Theatres, offering what's perhaps the region's best-known theatre discount scheme. RSC Key is a comprehensive programme, providing news, networking and deals tailored to under 25s. Anyone aged 16-25 can book £5 tickets for any RSC show with or without registering, but added benefits of joining Key include loyalty cards (see five shows, get one free) and money off in the shop and restaurant.

Less well-known is the fact that loyal customers who sign up to the online mailing list are frequently sent offers to attend previews and press nights for as little as £10 or £15. Availability for these tickets is limited, but the deals crop up often enough to make it well worth registering, particularly if you're interested in seeing something a little out of the ordinary, since the theatre can be harder to fill for non-Shakespearean plays.

Credit: Pete Le May, © RSC

mac Birmingham: two4none and 16-19 concessions
Created to make arts and culture more accessible to the local community, mac Birmingham rarely hosts expensive shows and never charges booking fees, but if standard cheap and cheerful is still not cheap enough, concessions also apply to everyone aged under 19, whether or not you're still studying.

If you're more keen on movies than live shows, the mac also runs a special cinema scheme for under 21s, with free tickets set aside for specific showings, listed on the website every month. The first person to ask for two4none tickets at the sales and information stand up to an hour before one of these screenings will receive a pair of tickets absolutely free.

THSH: SoundBite
If music's your thing, SoundBite is another great young people's scheme offering up to 50 per cent off tickets for shows at Town Hall, Symphony Hall and other related venues. If you're aged 16-25 or a full-time student, you can register for free online. Keep an eye on the website, where new deals are posted every Thursday.

Welsh National Opera: Under 30s and other discounts
Though not permanently based in Brum, the Welsh National Opera regularly visits the Birmingham Hippodrome. Thanks to subsidies, even full-price WNO tickets are generally affordable, but if you're under 30, you can see any of their stunning shows for £5 simply by quoting 'under 30' when booking. Don't forget to bring along proof of age when you collect your tickets.

More mature opera fans can also take advantage of the cheap tickets made available for one WNO show every season, usually priced around £10-30. Visit the company's website to find out which show is currently running discounted rates.

Credit: Robert Workman, via Birmingham Hippodrome

Loft Theatre (Leamington Spa): Under 25s
Another scheme open to students and anyone under 25 offers a limited number of £5 tickets to Loft Theatre Company productions on Monday and Tuesday nights. Unlike some discount tickets, these can't be claimed online: you'll have to take your chance and show up at the theatre on the day of the show, so if you're heading to Leamington, it might be wise have a back-up plan.

More theatre on Time Out Birmingham.

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