The best plays in the UK to see for under £50 a ticket

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Victoria Gray
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Going to the theatre is no longer the grand event it used to be - the days of top hats, opera glasses and huge dresses are definitely behind us. But with that comes a drop in not only formality, but ticket prices too.

While the best tickets for West End shows can still rank in the hundreds of pounds, many productions have seats available for under £50. Which, if you think about how much you spend on a meal with friends, really isn't that much of an indulgence for an evening out.

Seeing a play live on stage has a personal quality to it that going to the cinema will never quite be able to achieve, however many special effects are thrown at films - and visiting the theatre makes for a wonderful evening with friends, family, or even a date, with hours of discussion to be had afterwards. So you might have to sit a little further back, the experience is worth it.

Scroll down to see our favourite plays currently on for under £50 a ticket.

The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall London, SW1A 2DY,

When? 16 January - 11 April

Cost: From £15

About: Part of the Trafalgar Transformed project which as been running for two seasons, James McAvoy returns to the West End in this play about a dissatisfied young man who inherits his family's fortune, following his huge success in the Trafalgar Transformed production of Macbeth in 2013. The play, by Olivier award-winning playwright Peter Barnes was adapted for a successful film starring Peter O'Toole in the 1970s, but the energy of Jamie Lloyd's direction gives it a new breath of life.

Much of the run is sold out, but Trafalgar Transformed run a £15 Mondays deal, which can only be booked on the first Monday of each month, starting at 10am. All of the seats in the theatre are available for £15, so either go down to the theatre, or get online and keep refreshing!

The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales theatre

Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London W1D 6AS,

When? Booking until May 2

Cost: From £39.75

About: Yes it's true, the smash hit musical by the creators of South Park can be seen for under £50. When it first hit the West End after critics had raved about the production on Broadway, it seemed impossible to get into Mormon, but the latest run of tickets have just been released, and seats are still available in the £39.75 and £49.75 bands for much of March and April - but it's worth snapping them up quickly.

What the critics say: "The most cryingly good night out to have come along for years" - Euan Ferguson, The Guardian

Shakespeare in Love, Noel Coward theatre

Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4AU,

When? Booking until June 27

About: The adaptation of the 1998 film of the same name which won Gwyneth Paltrow an Oscar has been a hit on the West End, with its run extended and audiences continuing to flock in. Set during the Elizabethan era, the plot focuses on an invented affair between Shakespeare, a young struggling playwright and Viola de Lesseps, a noblewoman who disguises herself as a boy to get a part in one of his plays. The Shakespeare references are easy to spot if you know his work even a little, but it's a joy to watch even if you aren't a fan.

What the critics say: "It’s funny, often genuinely moving and generates a glow you could warm your hands by" - Charles Spencer, The Telegraph

Uncle Vanya, West Yorkshire Playhouse

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7UP

When? 28 February - 21 March

Cost: £20 

About: The Chekhov play that starred Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael and Anna Friel in the West End opens in Leeds in February. Set in the home of a dysfunctional Russian family, it's a dark funny story of crossed wires, professional jealousy and misplaced love. This is the third production of the play to be put on in recent years - something about the character of Vanya, or his family must appeal to the current climate.

The Separation, Theatre 503

Theatre 503, Lachmere Road, SW11,

When? 27 January - 21 February

Cost: From £12 (or pay what you can on Sundays)

Theatre 503 is a charming little place set above a pub in Battersea, which supports new writing talent in the industry. This play tells the story of a disintigrating Dublin family, set during the time of Ireland's 'Divorce' referendum in 1995. With a cast of just four, the play benefits from the intimate space of the theatre, and the skillful direction of new playwright Richard Molloy's writing by Simon Evans who has worked at Trafalgar Studios, the Print Room, the National Theatre, the Bush Theatre, and the Donmar Warehouse.

What the critics say: "Dark and funny in the right amounts, this is a balanced, consistent and provocative performance." - The Public Reviews

The Life and Times of Fanny Hill, Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol BS1 4ED,

When? 5 February to 7 March

Cost: From £10

About: Caroline Quentin stars in this adaptation of the 1748 novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, depicting the life of a prostitute (so sort of like a Belle du Jour of its day), which was banned soon after publication for its "scandalous" content. This adaptation by National Theatre writer-in-residence April de Angelis adds humour and charm, and the female dominated cast make it a breath of fresh air if you're sick of male-dominated stories.

The Changeling, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside,  SE1 9DT,

When? 15 January - 1 March

Cost: From £10

About: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's play of sexual politics - as Beatrice-Joanna tries to get out of the marriage her father has arranged for her so she can marry the man she loves, but falls into a deal she will regret with her father's servant Deflores - is a fascinating to watch, but when it's directed by the Globe's artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, who can transform a period setting into the most modern of performances, and set in the Globe's amazing candlelit indoor theatre, the play definitely makes for a night to remember.

Limited tickets are still available for £10 each - unfortunately they're standing spaces, but what did you expect at the Globe?

What the critics say: "Dromgoole’s frequently laugh-out-loud production doesn’t attempt to impart any great truth and simply embraces the silliness of the story, the rich comic nuance of the language, and filters it all through the artfully lit gloom of the Sam Wanamaker" - Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

The Merchant of Venice, Almeida Theatre

Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, Islington, N1 1TA,

When? Until 14 February

Cost: From £9

About: In collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, this adaptation of Shakespeare's famous comedy is relocated to Las Vegas, with the greed of 16th century Venice perfectly translating to modern-day casino culture. Tickets are selling like hot cakes, but the theatre release a small number of seats starting at £9 each day.

What the critics say: "It’s a triumph of characterisation, of which both Rupert Goold [the director] and Susannah Fielding [Portia] should be very proud." - Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

The Hard Problem, National Theatre

National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX,

When? January 21 - April 16

Cost: From £15

About: Award winning writer Tom Stoppard returns to the NT with a new play that tells the fascinating story of Hilary, a psychology researcher searching for an answer to a dilemma about where psychology and biology meet - will we ever truly be able to understand our brains, and if so, will a computer be able to carry out the job of a psychologist in the future? Tickets for Stoppard's new work are inevitably sold out, but the NT release a number of £15 tickets each day, so if you want to go, get queuing! 

Tree, Old Vic 

The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB,

When? Until January 31 and 16 - 22 February

Cost: From £16

About: Comedian Daniel Kitson wrote this likable play in his living room, before expanding to Battersea Arts Centre, then Manchester's Royal Exchange, and now the Old Vic, where it has been so popular that its run has been extended. It tells the simple story of a man who believes he is meeting a friend at the foot of a tree for a picnic, but soon discovers he is being overheard by a man who lives in the tree. Best of all, the tickets start at just £16.

What the critics say: "Stuffed full of glorious observations about the seeming mundanities of everyday life — a bus ride, a chocolate bar — that have  been lovingly polished up so that every episode is now a small, sparkling gem." - Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

Othello, The Lyric Hammersmith

Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King St, London W6 0QL,

When? Until 7 February

Cost: From £15

About: This modern update of Shakespeare's classic tale of marital jealousy by physical theatre company Frantic Assembly brings a new energy to the play - set in a pub, added choreography to the characters' interactions makes it more tense and involving than your run-of-the-mill school-play Shakespeare ever could be.

What the critics say: "It feels as if Shakespeare hasn't been buried, but honoured and imaginatively reinvented for 21st-century audiences" - Lyn Gardner, the Observer

Matilda, Cambridge Theatre

Cambridge Theatre, 32-34 Earlham Street, WC2H 9HU,

When? Booking until December

Cost: From £35

About: Tim Minchin's adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic tale is so popular it's transferred to Broadway, gone on a world tour and shows no signs of moving from its London home at the Cambridge Theatre, proving it certainly just not for children. Tickets are available throughout the year, and starting at just £35, it will make a lovely treat to book some far in advance and then have a surprise theatre trip come upon you in a couple of months

What the critics say: "Thrilling young audiences and push-pulling grown-ups from tears to gasps to laughter with such relentless energy that it leaves you breathless, exhilarated" - Time Out

How To Hold Your Breath, Royal Court Theatre

Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS

When? 4 February - 21 March

Cost: From £12

About: The Royal Court's reputation for discovering the most exciting new writing continues with this play by Zinnie Harris, starring Maxine Peake as Dana, a woman who ends up on a confusing journey through Europe with her sister Jasmine as a one night stand leads her to "discover the true cost of principles in this twisted exploration of how we live now."

Clarence Darrow, Old Vic

The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB,

When? 3 March - 11 April

Cost: From £10

About: Kevin Spacey returns to the role of charismatic lawyer Clarence Darrow for six weeks after a sell-out hit for his swansong performance as director of the theatre last year. Tickets for the new run go on sale on Friday 30 January, but you'll definitely have to be quick to get the more affordable seats.

What the critics say: "this is Spacey’s Prospero moment, and what he gives on his defiant farewell to the Old Vic is a Democratic, in the most American sense, call to arms" - Tim Auld, The Telegraph

Love Labour's Lost, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Royal Shakespeare Company, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BB,

When? Until March 14

Cost: From £18

About: This is a pair of plays - Love's Labours Lost, and Much Ado About Nothing, which is sometimes referred to as Love's Labour's Won. Christopher Luscombe updates both plays to be set in 1914 and 1918 respectively, giving a Downton Abbey-esque feel to the marriage plots between the central characters, who, as the titles imply have to work very hard in pursuit of their desired spouses. Sadly, although the plays compliment one another, you will have to buy separate tickets to see them as a double bill. But when tickets start at just £18, what is stopping you?

What the critics say: "This is the most blissfully entertaining and emotionally involving RSC offering I’ve seen in ages." - Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Rex Features/theatre posters

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Victoria Gray

Victoria is a contributor for She covers lifestyle and food pieces for the site. When on the internet she can be found tweeting feverishly about Great British Bake Off, and offline she is never happier than when in the company of some wine and cheese.