Monday, May 22, 2017

Tips on buying discount theatre tickets in London

The Olivier Theatre from the back of the Circle for Peter Pan
Over the last few years, I've rekindled my love of theatre. Some of you know that my love of theatre started in my early teens where I strutted my stuff on-stage and backstage for amateur and professional productions at the Swan Theatre in Worcester. I attended Swan Youth Theatre every week and performed in as many shows as I could as well as volunteering in the coffee shop, making costumes and being a dresser. It was something I considered doing as a career but was put off through a mix of family pressure and personal circumstances.

When I moved to London, I gave up all the acting. I simply didn't have time for either rehearsals or performances since I was working in retail with unsocial hours. I didn't go to the theatre at all for a very long time. I couldn't face it. I wanted to be on the stage rather than being in the audience and it just left me frustrated. Plus it was (is) expensive to go to shows in the West End and the salary of a retail manager (as I was at the time) simply didn't stretch to West End theatre tickets.

In the last few years though, I've started going to the theatre again and have gained much enjoyment and brain food from it and have been to all kinds of performances from the tiny to the huge, from mainstream to borderline bonkers and everything in between. I have a few thespian friends, mainly from my youth theatre days and some of them are in high enough places that I get the occasional complimentary ticket to see a show that they're in or are directing. I've also discovered several ways of enjoying the theatre in London without breaking the bank. Here's the lowdown.

1. Day Seats
This can be a great option for seeing shows in the West End. Many of the London theatres offer heavily discounted seats for the same day when their box office opens in the morning. Typically, they keep the front row available for day seaters, but sometimes they'll offer up other unsold seats as well. For the very popular shows, you'll need to get up early and queue. For others, you can rock up just before the theatre opens and you'll be rewarded with your tickets. Sometimes, if you're passing a theatre, it's worth popping in to see if they have a day seat available for that night. You can get lucky like that from time to time - I managed to get a ticket for 1984 for £10 just 40 minutes before curtain up. And if you're on your own, it's even easier as there are often the odd single seats available which are harder to fill as most people attend with a companion.

Before you head off to grab your day seats, it's well worth reading what TheatreMonkey has to say about it. There you can find all the London theatres listed and what their current policy is about day seats, including availability and pricing. It's a fantastic resource and well worth doing your homework so you can work out what show to try for. Check it out here.

2. TodayTix App
This is an app and website where you can access the equivalent of day seats but in a digital format. For some shows, there's a daily lottery that you can enter to win a day seat at a fixed price, for others, there are 'rush seats' available for that day or the next at a substantial discount, and for others, discounted seats are listed for the current week. Just this week, they've announced that you can now book up to 30 days ahead so you can do some forward planning rather than needing to be spontaneous.

The app is free to download on both Android and iOS or you can access on When you sign up, please use my code SMZER and you will get £10 off your first booking and I'll get a referral bonus too. Since many of the tickets are £20 or less, that means a very cheap ticket indeed for your first ticket. I like the app. I think the usability is good and it's not too cluttered. In fact, I'm off to see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour tonight with a TodayTix Rush ticket. The booking process was about as simple as it could get.

3. The Leicester Square Box Office aka
This is a London institution and I can remember going here when I was in my teens and twenties to get tickets for shows with both my Mum and my Aunty Betty. Back then, you'd rock up at the booth and hope for the best as to what's available. Now you can check online what's available before you join the queue to buy your tickets. Tickets are available for the same day and the earlier you get there, the better tickets you'll be able to score. And it saves you having to queue up at the crack of dawn for day seats and if one show is sold out, they have others on offer so you can always go to something. The staff there are very helpful and will tell you about the different shows on offer to help you choose.

4. Theatre Clubs
I am a paid up member of four different theatre clubs where they offer a mixture of heavily discounted tickets and/or complimentary tickets (for an admin fee) for a wide-range of shows from fringe and pub theatre to the ENO and big West End shows. There's an annual or monthly fee to pay and there are club rules to follow (typically, don't talk about the club or your complimentary tickets whilst at the theatre) otherwise your membership can be terminated. The service they offer is called 'papering'. This is theatrical slang for giving away free tickets to fill up the house. This is often done during preview weeks to build up the word of mouth for a show, or to make up for a lack of marketing or lower ticket sales than expected. And if you're in the theatre, then the chances are you'll support it by buying a drink and a programme. Every little helps when it comes to keeping theatre alive.

If you like to plan ahead, then What's On Stage Theatre Club might suit you. You can pay monthly or annually. Typically there are discounted seats for selected performances booked and paid for in advance. Occasionally, they do papering or offer heavily discounted seats for big shows at the last minute.

ShowFilmFirst is free to join and intermittently, you'll get an email through to film screenings, theatre shows, sports events or concerts. There's a nominal charge if you book one of these performances but there's no fee to join the email list. What I would say is that you need to keep a close eye on your emails as these tickets tend to go very quickly.

The other two clubs I'm a member of are much more discreet and because of the papering aspect and their rules around discretion, I'm not going to link to them. An online search for 'theatre club London discounted tickets' should render results.

5. National Theatre Friday Rush tickets
I've seen many good shows at The National Theatre and one of the best ways of scoring a ticket is to check their website on a Friday. Every Friday at 1pm they have a tranche of tickets on sale for £20 for shows the following week. Sometimes, you can even get sold out shows this way as they keep an allocation for this. For some shows, you can get lucky later in the week too if the Friday specials don't all sell out. Here's the Friday Rush landing page.

There are three venues at The National and they all have great sight lines so it's very unlikely you'll be blocked or have a limited view unless you're right at the sides. In The Dorfman, it's small enough that any seat should give you a good view although the raking isn't as good as the other two spaces there.

6. Clubs run by the theatres themselves
Several London theatres have their own members clubs or season ticket options. Ambassador Theatres run a lot of the large regional theatres and a number of West End theatres. If you're a member you can get booking discounts and other benefits. If I lived outside of London but near a regional theatre, I would probably make use of this. Southwark Theatre has its own season ticket offering and Jermyn Street Theatre offers benefits, advanced booking and discounts to sponsors.

7. Earn theatre tokens with your reviews with Seatplan.
Seatplan is an online service whereby people review theatre seats in terms of view, legroom and comfort. If you're looking for bargain seats and wondering if the view is going to be terrible, this is a great place to check that out beforehand. Some reviewers even manage to sneak in some photographs (photography is usually prohibited, even before curtain up). For each verified review (either a photograph of the stage from your seat or a copy of your ticket, you earn theatre tokens. These tokens can then be used at most West End theatre box offices in person, at the Leicester Square Ticket Booth and many regional theatres too. It's free to join. You can also book tickets through this site too.

8. Get Into London Theatre
Every year, the Society of London Theatres has a special deal for families for discounted tickets for popular shows in their 'Get Into London Theatre' promotion. They do sell out quite quickly, but you can add yourself to the mailing list. The people behind this are the same people who run the Leicester Square Ticket Booth.

9. Other options
MoneySavingExpert and Time Out are worth a look. As is and Groupon. Again, you need to monitor your emails and you need to cross reference the deal to see if you can get a better price somewhere else.

If you have any other tips, do let me know. And happy theatre-going!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ugly Lies the Bone, Virtual Reality and The Power of Theatre

Much as I'm interested in new technologies, Virtual Reality (VR) has never been my thing. I suffer from vertigo from time to time and, from what I've read, VR experiences can trigger it. I already struggle with 3D movies (I rarely go to a 3D version of a film these days), and I really don't like sweeping film sequences as if in flight. I have to look away from the screen. So I'm not a natural fit for VR.

On the business side, beyond entertainment (immersive films and entertainment), I've also not seen a compelling reason for VR, yet it's one of those technologies that won't go away, has been invested in heavily and was ubiquitous at this year's Mobile World Congress. Admittedly, it was fun watching a colleague walk the plank off a virtual sky scraper, but that's a gimmick or a game and isn't going to be for everyone. So it's fair to say, I'm a VR naysayer. Or at least I was.

I'm now beginning to see some exciting uses for VR in terms of well-being. I, and several thousand others were moved by Tribemix's work with dementia patients by using Virtual Reality to take them back to places where they felt safe and could escape their dementia, even if only for a short while. I think it's extraordinary how the mind can be fooled and that you can immerse yourself in an alternate reality so readily.

Which leads me to the fabulous play I've just seen at The National Theatre - Ugly Lies the Bone. It's the tale of Jess, a US war veteran who was badly injured in Afghanistan and spent 14 months in hospital and is in constant pain. She moves back to her home town in Florida to live with her sister and as part of her pain management, she uses guided VR to help her overcome some of her physical and mental limitations.

I'm fascinated at the prospect that something non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical like VR might be used to heal and to manage chronic illness or chronic pain. That has to be better than pumping people full of drugs.

The play explores Jess's return to her hometown, and her rebuilding relationships with her sister and ex boyfriend and trying to establish a new life for herself. Jess also immerses herself into a VR experience and the audience also experiences it through some of the most stunning visuals I've ever seen on the stage. They're so good that they almost take away from the writing and performances. The tight cast do not disappoint. The relationship dynamics are really interesting as others, and Jess herself adjust to the disfigurements she suffered and to the triggers that send her back to the moment the bomb went off in Afghanistan that sent her on this painful journey.

The play is life-affirming, fascinating and beautiful. Go see it while you can! It may help you see another side to virtual reality beyond nerds gaming in darkened rooms. More about the play and how to book tickets on The National Theatre website.

In both the film and theatre examples above, the power of storytelling and the power of theatre is clear to me. Theatre has the power to take us somewhere else entirely, and in turn, that can be a fabulous healing experience.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New comScore report: Mobile's Hierarchy of Needs

I just got an email from comScore announcing the release of a new global report, ‘Mobile’s Hierarchy of Needs’. They tell us that this new report traces the global evolution of smartphones and tablets as they’ve become consumers’ primary digital tool, revealing specific behaviours for which these platforms are important to their daily lives. Data from 9 markets (USA, Canada, UK, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China and Indonesia) demonstrates audience and consumption trends, along with regional differences in digital landscapes.

Key insights revealed in ‘Mobile’s Hierarchy of Needs’ include:
  • Mobile devices account for more than 60% of all digital minutes in all 9 markets, led by app usage.
  • The share of consumers abandoning desktop altogether varies dramatically by geography – from just 7% in the UK, to 70% in Indonesia.
  • Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ Instant Messenger and Line account for nearly 1 in 7 minutes in certain markets and led to a decline in standard SMS messaging.
I thought it was worth a look. You can download the report here: Mobile’s Hierarchy of Needs report.

They have a bunch of other free whitepapers you may also find useful, including this recent one about Mums in the UK and their online behaviour, especially on smartphones.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Heading to Barcelona next week for Mobile World Congress?

I'll try and keep this one short as I know you have a busy schedule but I wanted to alert you to a few things that are going on that you may or may not know about.
  • Fancy showing off what you're doing to an enthusiastic crowd on Sunday afternoon at NUMA? I have a few demo slots left. If you would like one of those, please register for a demo ticket here. There is no charge to demo. Anyone else who wants to come, please add yourself to the waiting list. I hope to release the last batch of tickets tomorrow. And if you fancy sponsoring the event and connecting with 200 mobilists, let me know.

See you in Barcelona!

Quick links for registration

Eventbrite - Innovation on the Fringe is Back! Barcelona 2017

Eventbrite - 12th Annual Ladies Get Together: Barcelona 2017

Eventbrite - Swedish Beers - #12 Barcelona Edition, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Win an expo pass for Mobile World Congress courtesy of Trustonic!

Our lovely friends at Trustonic have FIVE free tickets to give away to this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Each ticket allows access to the exhibition and special seminars only for the full four days of MWC. This ticket does not give access to any of the conference sessions but it can be upgraded for an additional cost when you register.

You can enter the competition here.

About Trustonic

Trustonic is a leading player in mobile device and application security. Almost a billion devices have Trustonic security embedded at the manufacturing stage, providing smart devices with an embedded root of trust and a hardware-protected environment for secure storage and processing. Trustonic also offer application-level security across multiple platforms, including smartphone (iOS and Android) and IoT. Trustonic is exhibiting at this year's MWC. Find them in Hall 6 - 6140.

Contest rules and instructions

Contestants enter by simply leaving their name and contact details on this entry form and answering a simple question about Trustonic. There is no charge to enter the competition.

At the end of the contest period five (5) random winners will be selected to each receive one (1) ticket to attend Mobile World Congress Exhibition on Monday February 27 to Thursday 2 March 2017.

The contest will run from Tuesday 21 February 2017, 15:00 GMT until Thursday 23 February 2017, 15:00 GMT. Winners will be notified by email or telephone.

This contest is open only to entrants who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Employees, consultants, officers and directors of the Sponsor, their parents, affiliates and subsidiaries, participating advertising and Contest agencies and prize suppliers (and members of their immediate family and/or those living in the same of household of each) are ineligible.

Good luck!

Friday, January 06, 2017

76 Mobile Predictions for 2017

It's a New Year and that means predictions will be coming out of the woodwork wherever you look. The mobile sector is no exception and I took part this year to add my 2p to this report from Tune '76 Mobile Predictions for 2017'.

I'm afraid my response wasn't terribly imaginative compared with the others, but here it is:

The first point "Mobile usage is ubiquitous in Western markets" refers to the point that 'mobile' is a given. If your site doesn't work on mobile, then you're doing more than missing a trick, you're missing out on traffic, sales and brand equity. Mobile is truly the centre of a large part of our digital lives. The time we spend grazing content, playing games, chatting with friends, taking and sharing photos, is largely done on a mobile device in the Western markets that I'm familiar with.

My second point, "The big platforms will get bigger. Out of the big four – GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), Apple may suffer, but only a little," is an observation that just as the rich seem to get richer, the largest organisations get larger and richer too. And in the mobile world, and particularly Western markets, GAFA are the big winners. I don't see them losing momentum in the near future. Of the four, I think Apple may stumble a bit in comparison to its glory years of late. But they have so much money in the bank, they'll work it out in the end, I'm sure. For other, more erudite predictions, check out the rest of the list here.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

47% of jobs will disappear in the next 25 years according to Oxford University

Having spent some time researching the impact of new technologies on the work we do in the last couple of years, there is much in this article from BigThink that resonates.

We will, no doubt, lose jobs. Others will replace them but not at the same rate as the loss, I suspect.

I believe blue collar workers will fare better. That workforce has always had to adapt and is likely better prepared for change than their white collar counterparts.

Those working in legal services, accountancy, medicine will all see their jobs change drastically as more and more aspects of their jobs are taken over by software. Computers are already better at diagnosing cancer, standard contracts can be dealt with by a virtual lawyer. Even music for adverts can be written effectively by software and much faster and much cheaper than a human musician. So even the creative industries aren't necessarily safe.  Companies are on a constant mission to create efficiencies and to save money so they can create the most value for their shareholders. They wouldn't be doing their job properly if they weren't.

In the short term, robots and software will be colleagues rather than a total replacement and that will present its challenges. What will your relationship be with your robot co-worker, for example? For some this will be a blessing as it means less human interaction. (Many of my friends prefer online shopping for this reason). For others, a curse as they miss having people around them for company. I already have friends who freely admit they have a relationship with Amazon Echo's Alexa and if you haven't watched the film, Her, you should! It is entirely possible to have a relationship with a robot. On my visit to San Francisco last year, I found myself talking to a house robot as if it were a pet cat. Turns out it was Kuri and it has been a hit at this year's CES.

Longer term, the picture probably doesn't look as rosy. Regardless, change is afoot. That means we need to learn adaptability, flexibility and how to share the resources we have without demonising 'the poor' or putting students into debt learning things that will be obsolete by the time they graduate. It's a difficult topic to address as it impacts absolutely everything from what infrastructure we need, how we find meaning in life and what we do with our time. Lots to think about as this future gets ever nearer.

Living More With Less

Wanting and buying less stuff is not a new path for me. Buying less gets easier over time once you've made a decision to do it. I think I'd call it 'mindful shopping' and I think carefully over what I buy and what price I pay for it. 

I'm also fortunate to have learned to sew as a very young girl which means mending, refashioning and making things from scratch is all doable and enjoyable so I don't feel I'm missing out on fashion. Plus, I have a large stash of fabric, patterns and haberdashery accumulated over the last 35 years. After all, I spent the best part of 10 years working in fashion retail, it's a hard habit to break. I also think fashion can be an artistic expression and getting it right (for you) can make a difference to how you feel. 

My reasons for the buying and having less things were selfish. I have accumulated way too much stuff over the years and need to get rid of it. It's making my life more difficult than it need be as time is spent making decisions of what to keep, what to discard, how to recycle, how to store when I could be spending time and money doing other things. It makes my home environment untidy and difficult to organise. Bottom line, it's wasting my time and money - neither of which are limitless resources. This starts by not adding to the pile from buying needlessly or mindlessly. 

I've been slowly shedding possessions for the last year or so. And it is a slow process. There's a lot to sort through to work out where to donate it, sell it, upcycle or recycle it. Throw in work and family commitments and the time to do it is limited. But I plan to continue on this path until it's done. When that will be, I have no idea but continue, I must.

The upside of this is that instead of getting 'things' as presents or choosing 'things' to treat myself with, I'm getting time with people I love and experiences of things I really want to do like going to the theatre, joining a craft workshop or walking in nature. These are all much better for my soul!

And as with my pescetarian preferences of the last 30 years, the ethics of 'less' came later but they're now part of my rationale too. I know retail is a large part of the economy, but it feels like the trend of 'less' is strengthening, not least as earning potential and the economy go down rather than up. This has implications for the retail sector, of course. And in turn, that impacts on the surrounding sectors such as advertising, marketing, packaging, distribution and more. This is not insignificant stuff but I'll leave the analysis on that one for another day when I've time to get an expert view on it from people smarter than me.

In the meantime, this is a good read around the ethical reasons for buying and having less. It's from a few years ago, but still relevant on re-reading yesterday.

And for those so inclined, the Marie Kondo books offer a way forward. You can get them on Amazon in all formats - the first one is The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the latest version is Spark Joy - The Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying. You don't need both of them - either will do to get you on the path of less. And remember, less is subjective. There is no need to go for complete minimalism, it's finding what works for you.