I visit the theatre a lot and have seen some shows multiple times from different seats. I'm always surprised at the differing price ranges and I'm very interested in trying to get value for my money.
Within the last six months I have watched shows from so called 'restricted view' seats and from seats that weren't deemed to have this title. For some of the seats, I didn't agree with the title they were given. So, what qualifies as a restricted view seat and how can we be sure to get what we pay for?
Different theatres and ticket sellers have differing rules for ticket classification. A lot of the theatres now have interactive sites, in which you can check your view from the seat you are planning to buy. Many of the the venues listed on Londontheatredirect.com have interactive seating plans during the booking process, allowing you to see where a set of seats is in the theatre rather than just a list of seat numbers. I try to always look at these where possible.
Generally my personal preference is for stalls seats. I like to be really close to the action. If in doubt, you can always call and ask your ticket agent about a particular theatre's seats, staff are usually knowledgeable and can answer questions you may have.
I have seen Miss Saigon from the stalls three times this year. Once in the third row centre stalls which was excellent, once from the very back of the right stalls which was good and once from the very left middle stalls, which I wasn't so keen on. This seat did have a restricted view although it wasn't billed as such. I couldn't see any of the scenes from the top of the stage right e.g. When John is on the phone to Chris. This did make me feel a bit cross.
Earlier in the year I bought a restricted view ticket for Phantom of the Opera. I was in the dress circle at the front on the very far right. I didn't feel I missed anything and would very happily sit there again.
When buying a ticket for Wicked in September I was told there were only cheap tickets available for those who were 5'8" or over. This is due to barriers being in the way of your view if you are any shorter. I have seen Wicked from most areas of the theatre and would definitely chose front middle stalls.
I also, in August had fantastic front row tickets for Richard III at Trafalgar Studios. Because of how the stage is set up, I wondered how good the view would be from the other side.
I've seen Les Miserables from near the back of the stalls and found apart from a little of the barricade, the view was perfectly good.
I've seen Billy Elliot from the mid stalls(excellent) and from the back of the dress circle. The view from the back of the dress circle was fine but the sound was very poor.
I have only ever once been lucky enough to sit in a premium seat. This was for The Book of Mormon. I loved the view but some may have found that they were a little too close.
Most recently I watched the amazing new production of City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse where I did again have view restrictions without buying a restricted view ticket. Hopefully, if rumours are to be believed, City of Angels will transfer to the West End and I will be able to watch it again, only next time from the centre stalls.
The moral here, seems to be that each theatre has its own way of classifying its seats. So unless you are on a very tight budget, looking for particularly cheap theatre tickets or booking last minute tickets, it is definitely a good idea to research the particular theatre you are planning to attend. Have a look at seat reviews and also ask the people selling you the tickets where they would chose to sit.
By Nicky Sweetland
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