What are theatres like in London?

I thought I would do a short article on UK theatres (not just London) for those of you who may not have been before, but are now thinking that a trip to see a show might be a nice thing to do! After all anything can be a bit scary if it is not familiar!

Firstly, theatres are not full of posh people staring down their noses at you because you haven’t worn the right clothes, or bought the right seats or drinks or even got over excited and clapped at the wrong bit… that is opera! Actually that is probably a bit unfair… that is classical concerts!

The theatres normal people go to, in the West End of London, or in your own town centre, are full of people who don’t go very much, who still think it is exciting and are just happy to be there and rub shoulders with other people who are happy to be there. We all excitedly read programmes, we all sometimes eat our sweets too loudly, we all complain at the bar prices and sometimes we are the only person in the theatre standing on our feet and cheering… it doesn’t matter!  If the rest of the audience don’t like it as much as you, they will definately enjoy seeing you enjoy it!

And as far a what to wear is concerened, wear what ever you feel comfortable in. You don’t have to wear a suit, but if you want to, that is fine, it adds to the occassion. In the summer, some people are in shorts and tee-shirts: especially if it is hot outside… it can get hotter inside! I tend to wear a couple of layers as sometimes the theatre can start off chillly and then get hot: smart jeans and a shirt are fine.

So now you know that you will be safe on the night, what else do you need to know?

Order interval drinks before you go in. They are expensive, so there is no need to have to fight for them too. There is no need to gulp them down at the end of the interval: most theatres will give you a plastic galss to take in.

There will be a queue for the lady’s loos

Arrive at the theatre with about 20 minutes to spare.

Check you have your tickets before you leave the house.

When you buy your tickets ask what the “face value” is (the normal price): fees should never be more than 25% (found only at London agents) and are usually just a few pounds.

Book ahead – 6 to 8 weeks should be plenty. Only book on the day if you are desparate for a deal and you want to use TKTS – the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square – and you don’t mind not seeing what you wanted to see or sitting at he back!

Shop Around – but don’t go crazy, check with the theatre and a couple of agents who can sometimes be cheaper and sometimes more expensive than the theatre itself: wierd I know!

Seats: theatre auditoriums (the bit you watch the show from)are generally split into 2, 3 4 sections. Stalls are on the flat, Dress or Royal Circle are the next ones up. Upper circles and Balconies are really high and normally cheaper and hotter! The rows will be marked by a letter, the seats by a number. Rows tend to have between 20 and 50 seats in them. The more central the seats the better the view but somepeople like the aisles.

Yes, tall people do get in the way! If you are short ask if the auditorium is sloped (techical term “raked”) allowing you to see over the people in front more easily. Some seats are staggered so you automatically look between the people in front. Unfortunately tall people are a fact of life!

If you are worried that you may lose your tickets, ask for them to be kept at the box office for you and you can pick them up on the night.

Shows tend to be between 1.5 hours and 3 hours long and usually have an interval of about 15-20 minutes. Some shorter ones don’t have an interval but they will warn you in advance.

Snacks for sale tend to be just bags of chocolate and ice-creams… again they are usually very expensive!

If you are having a pre-theatre meal at a nearby reastaurant, just go for 2 courses, 3 courses is too much of a rush!

And lastly: enjoy yourself. It is not scary, the people are not all snobs and most of them will be exactly like you and you will all leave wondering why you don’t do this more often!

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