One of the best things about Sydney Festival is how much cultural bang for your buck you can get – if you plan ahead. There are, of course, the scores of free events. There's also Tix for Next to Nix, a cultural happy hour where you can buy tickets to performances for the following night for the low, low price of $26.
The sale runs from 5.30pm to 6.30pm every day (except Mondays) at the Festival Village box office, but don't expect to rock up at 5.30pm on the dot and walk away with tickets to the show you want. You'll need to be more strategic than that. We scouted it out this weekend, and here's what we learned.
1. The early bird gets the (sold out) worm. There are some scorching hot tickets at Sydney Festival, and Tix for Next to Nix is now the only way to get them. Sold out shows like Nude Live and Prize Fighter have small allotments of tickets each day, and we do mean small. On the Saturday we visited there were four Nude: Live tickets available, two for each of the following nights' performances. The only way to get them is to be first, or close to it. Which we were. We lined up at 3.30pm, were fourth in line and nabbed the final two tickets to the show. On Friday, the only person to get tickets to the coveted Saturday night nude-audience performance joined the line at 12.30pm.
2. Ask and ye shall receive... information. The staff at the box office are very happy to give you details of how many tickets they have for each performance on the Tix for Next to Nix lineup, so it pays to do a very early drive-by, see how many tickets they have, and for what, and then figure out when to join the line from there. If there are 36 tickets to your chosen show, you can probably fetch up fairly late in the day and still be fine. If there are only two, you'll need to get in that line right away.
3. Talk to the line. Performing arts people are friendly. They're happy to chat. Once you know how many tickets there are for each show, you can walk down the line and ask those queueing what they're hoping to see. If everyone is after the same thing you are, save your time and don't join the line. Oh, and don't worry about losing your place if you need to go to the bathroom. The day we waited, line-neighbours were happy to hold spots for loo breaks.
4. Bring a buddy. Waiting around for tickets is so much more fun if you've got a tag team to go on James Estate Frosé and Porteño pie runs. But that's not the true genius of dialing in a friend. You're allowed to buy two tickets per person, per day. Sydney Festival performances are generally short, and on at very different times of night. So if there are two of you, you can grab tickets to a 7pm show and a 9.30pm show (like outrageous boylesque act Briefs) and get double the culture for your wait time. In addition to our 6pm Nude: Live tickets, we grabbed a double pass to The Season at 7.30pm, then sprinted through the Botanic Gardens to make our second show. Totally worth it.
5. Have a plan a, b and c (or no plan at all). If you can't wait in line for more than 30 minutes or so, it's worth having a mixed bag of shows you'd be happy to see. If you're willing to go with the flow and get what's available, you may end up with something surprisingly excellent you'd never normally attend.
6. Make a picnic of it. The area where you wait for tickets has a full view of the Sydney Festival free stage, and it's lovely and shady. Bring a fold-up chair or a picnic blanket, and a good book, and you'll feel like you've spent the afternoon hanging out in a park, not waiting around.
Want more culture? Take Time Out's #SydCulture challenge and hit up 52 cultural events in 2017.