If, like me you visit a fair few theatres, you will understand the need for the atmosphere, auditorium and facilities to be up to scratch to ensure you have full viewing pleasure. No matter how good the show, if you are not comfortable for the duration of your visit, this can hugely impact your enjoyment. Every theatre has its pros and cons, and they're often down to personal preference, but here's my list of ten ways that the right venue can make your visit memorable for the right reasons.
1. Comfortable seats
There is nothing worse than enjoying a show only to get half way through and find your rear has gone to sleep.
As a woman, in most theatres you have to make strategic loo breaks. There are rarely enough, they are often run down, and you can spend a huge majority of the interval queuing up to use the amenities. In most theatres you basically need to be dehydrated or able to run very fast and hope you're sitting next to the isle. The only exception I've found recently is the The Prince Of Wales Theatre where The Book of Morman is playing. Going for your 'wee break' there is actually a great experience!
Have a look at my blog, When Is Your Wee Break In A Show?
I prefer to sit near the front so I can really soak up the atmosphere from the stage but also can hear the actors even if the microphones aren't too good. Last year I watched Billy Elliot from a cheap seat in the upper circle and found the dialogue too quiet and the effects far too loud.
I visited New York in the summer and found the Broadway theatres were freezing. Although it was about 30 degrees outside, you needed a wooly hat on under the excessive air conditioning. Thankfully the London theatres haven't adopted this (yet!), although they do occasionally have the heating turned up too high which can lead to snoozing if the show isn't interesting enough.
5. Theatre Programmes
Do we really need to pay for one programme featuring the current cast and one with the pretty pictures? I just don't think two are needed and begrudge paying for them. Wicked has the right idea by combing the two in a glossy programme with both cast and production pictures.
6. Leg room
Now, I'm only a shorty so if I find if there isn't much leg room the seats must be cramped. The Palace Theatre (The Commitments) is the worst for people on the taller side in my experience. My son (6'3") and my partner (6'1") struggled. The Apollo Victoria (Wicked) is a little tight, as is the Noel Coward (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night time). The Book Of Mormon at the Prince Of Wales Theatre has plenty of room as does the Prince Edward (Miss Saigon) and Her Majesty's (The Phantom of the Opera).
7. The Rake
Raked seating is a great way of ensuring hundreds of people can get the best view possible. The angle of the seating varies from theatre to theatre and in some it is so steep that you feel as if you are going to fall from the upper circle seats. The Palace theatre again, is the worse for this in my experience.
Although the Cambridge Theatre (Matilda) is quite steeply raked, it's not enough for it to feel scary and the view from the cheap seats is still really good.
8. View restrictions
This can be very annoying particularly if they are not published. Have a look at my previous blog about where to sit: What's In That Label: Restricted View
Not being able to find the way out when the show ends and having to queue to leave can be a bit frightening and very annoying. I understand that attempting to get around 1500 people out in a orderly fashion is a challenge, but opening as many exits as possible and labelling them can help this.
I really hate the use of blinders and pyro flashes. If I have to look away from the stage, the lights are too bright as far as I'm concerned.
When done well, the lighting can change a scene's feeling and mood. The lighting in Miss Saigon at The Prince Edward is excellent and illustrates perfectly the place and the period of the piece.
Equally the house lights can impact your visit. If they are too dim, it can be difficult to read your seat number. Some of the older theatres seem to have this problem.
With all of this in mind, I have to say that my least favourite theatre is the Palace. It could generally do with a bit of a spruce up and even though The Commitments is a great show and well worth it, I look forward to the other parts of my visit less.
I can safely say that my favourite theatre to visit in the West End at the moment is The Prince of Wales. It ticks all the boxes and The Book Of Mormon is a great show!
By Nicky Sweetland
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