The Best Affordable Theatres in South London

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London is a theatre-lover’s paradise if only you know where to look - for innovative, exciting and maybe even surprising theatre that won’t break the bank, look no further than our Top 5 smaller, more affordable theatres in South London...

White Bear Theatre &

138 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4DJ | near Kennington station

Sitting on top of the lovely pub of the same name, The White Bear Theatre is a fantastic fringe theatre that has helped develop some of the countries leading theatre makers including Joe Penhall, Sharon Horgan and Dennis Kelly. Founded (and still run) by Michael Kingsbury in 1989 , It has also hosted work by a new generation of practitioners including Ruby Thomas, Poleroid Theatre, The Ugly Sisters and Martha Watson Allpress. Winning numerous awards including Timeout Best Fringe Theatre and the London Pub Theatre Award for Outstanding Contribution To Pub Theatre, this intimate 50-seat space has been called 'South London's New Writing Powerhouse' by The Stage. 

Many of its plays are picked for transfer to bigger theatres and for longer runs; recent transfers include Maggie and Ted to the Garrick Theatre, Dom to The Other Palace and Theatre Royal Windsor, plus Jumping The Shark ( which started at The White Bear as a one-week run) enjoyed a name-led number one tour in March this year, and I Found My Horn opened in the main house at The Riverside Studious in June 2023. 

Check out the current programme here

Tickets generally range from £12 to £18, with concessions for pensioners, the unemployed, students, and under 16s.

Omnibus Theatre

1 Clapham Common North Side, London SW4 0LH | near Clapham North and Clapham High Street stations

Omnibus Theatre opened in 2013 after a seven year campaign to save the 19th century public library from being turned into luxury flats, and the commitment to the community continues with its ambition to make theatre affordable to all (it is a registered charity, without grants, whose patrons include Dame Judi Dench, the late Sir Michael Gambon and Lord Michael Cashman) - some tickets cost as little as £6!

Since opening Omnibus Theatre has won the Off West End Theatre award twice, and it is not hard to see why; as well as platforming new writing, their programme also reimagines classic works; notable in-house productions include Woyzeck (2013), Macbeth (2014), Mule (2016) and The Little Prince (2019).

The venue has a Main Theatre with capacity for 90 - 110 people and the Studio Upstairs which has 80 seats. The Engine Room is Omnibus Theatre’s regular ‘scratch programme’, in which theatre makers are given access to the rehearsal space in order to workshop and present pices up to 20 minutes long for the audience to critique via feedback forms which directly influence the development of the pieces. Artists who have previously workshopped in The Engine Room include Opia Collective, Cocoa Butter Club and Playing On.

Click here to see What’s On at Omnibus Theatre

Tickets for visiting shows generally range from £15 to £18 (tickets for preview or premiere shows can go for as low as £6)

Battersea Arts Centre

Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN | near Clapham Junction station

The Battersea Arts Centre is a 350-seat venue that has provided a home for extraordinary artists for over 50 years now, and is a registered charity that receives public grants to recognise its platforming of artists; this year BAC presents Bloom 2024, a performance strand for works that have been developed there over the past year - artists including Samir Kennedy and Midgitte Bardot were provided with rehearsal space and time with no expectation of an outcome, and here they present works that are both in-progress and finished pieces. BAC also hosts an annual Homegrown Festival of pieces produced by young performers. 

Past theatrical highlights include the daring Truth’s A Dog Must to Kennel in 2023 and Punchdrunk Theatre Company's 2007-8 promenade performance of "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe - the interactive performance, which ran through most of the building, required the audience to wear masks the entire time (Jeff Goldblum and Joanna Lumley even managed to see it!) and was seen by over 40,000 people in its seven-month long sell-out season!

Click here to see the BAC's program of events, which includes comedy, dance, music, workshops and talks

Tickets for shows with set prices range from £14 to £42; most shows operate on a ‘pay what you can’ basis (with Recommended Prices as low as £8)

Jack Studio Theatre

410 Brockley Rd, London SE4 2DH | near Crofton Park and Honour Oak Park stations

The Brockley Jack Theatre (also known as the Jack Studio Theatre) opened in 1992 and has since been platforming established works as well as pieces produced in-house with great success; the 50-seat venue won Most Welcoming Theatre (South East London) twice, as well as winning London Pub Theatre of the Year in 2023 - it might help that the theatre has also won a Best Foodie Experience award!

Every two months the intimate theatre hosts its own scratch event, a 75-minute show of five to six performances of new or developing pieces, with audience critique invited afterwards.The theatre also platforms writers connected to the South East London community with its Write Now Festival; alongside its full production of a play chosen from submissions of previously unperformed plays, there are writing workshops and post-show discussions. Plus, each year they launch the festival with the performance of ten minute plays on a given theme. 

Click here to check out their program, which features is a mix of established works and new writing, produced by in-house company Southside Arts

Tickets cost £10 - £17, with concessions for full-time students, over 65s, unwaged, under 18s and Equity Members. 

Orange Tree Theatre

1 Clarence St, Richmond TW9 2SA | near Richmond station

Orange Tree Theatre was founded in 1971 in a small room above the pub of the same name by Sam Walters (who retired in 2014 as the UK’s longest-serving theatre director) and his actress wife Auriol Smith, and moved to its current site (opposite the pub) in 1991; throughout its life, this has been the place to go in Richmond and the surrounding areas for exciting and innovative independent theatre. Its stated mission is “to enable audiences to experience the next generation of theatre talent, experiment with ground-breaking new drama and explore the plays from the past that inspire the theatre-makers of the present.”

Since 2014 the theatre has won ten ‘Offies’ (Off West End Awards) and five UK Theatre Awards, and well as the regional award for Most Welcoming Theatre in 2017. Theatre makers produce their plays with the theatre’s intimate staging in mind; its 180 seats are ‘in the round’ (i.e. all around the stage which sits in the middle) and split across two levels, which gives an intimacy and immediacy to the productions and performances. 

This place has earned its (self-appointed) title as “a powerhouse of independent theatre”; as well as producing plays in-house that have gone on to run at The National Theatre, from 1986 to 2014 it ran a trainee director scheme, each year appointing two young assistant directors who have gone on to do great things in theatre, including Timothy Sheader, Dominic Hill and Rachel Kavanaugh. What’s more, the theatre has been running an MA in Theatre Directing with St Mary's University, Twickenham since 2016, with students sometimes bringing stand-out performances to the public.

 You can check out Orange Tree Theatre’s current programme here

Tickets range from £15 - £56 (with concessions for Under 30s and theare Union Members)