Dummy’s Guide to London Theatre Seats
If you are thinking of visiting the theatre, then one of the main things you need to consider (other than which show to see, of course!) is which seats you are going to buy. The seat that you sit in can greatly affect how you feel about a performance, and great consideration should go into your decision on which seats to buy. Different seating sections can offer different experiences. So which seats present the best views, which section is the best for children and which are the cheapest?
Close to the Action
Theatres are traditionally made up of three levels, with the occasional theatre having two or four. The floor seating directly in front of the stage is called the Stalls (Orchestra). This is the best place to sit if you like to feel a part of the performance and enjoy seeing the expressions on the actors’ faces. Often, audience members’ in the Stalls will come away from a show having both a great view and having been close to the action, enabling them to feel like a part of the show. The central front rows are the most expensive seats in the auditorium.
The Best View
The seating area above the Stalls is usually called the Circle (Mezzanine), and is sometimes also named the Dress Circle or Royal Circle, depending on the theatre. The Circle is a section of seating raised on the lowest balcony in the theatre, above the Stalls. Some Circles are near to the stage and offer brilliant views, whilst others can be a bit further back and you may feel as though you are missing out on some of the action. Depending on which theatre you are visiting and whether you like to be higher up or not, Circle seats can present great views of the stage, and the first five to ten rows almost always present some of the best views in the house. If you are taking children to a show, sitting in the Circle is a great choice as the seats usually have a steep rake, meaning that people’s heads in the rows in front will not generally block their views, and as the whole section is raised up, they will have a great view of the stage.
Cheap, cheap, cheap!
The third seating area is the Upper Circle (Second Mezzanine). Raised very high up from the stage, the Upper Circle can offer some good views, but often restricted seating is up here on the end seats of each row, and you might feel rather far away from everything. The cheapest tickets can always be found up here, aside from some restricted seating in other seating sections, and I have sat in the Upper Circle on numerous occasions and found that for the price you pay, the seats are great value for money.
Some theatres have an even higher seating area called the Balcony (Gallery), which is above the Upper Circle. For more information on which seats are best to buy and for seating charts for each theatre, please refer to the theatres page on our website.
Double Bookings and Legroom Problems
Occasionally, double bookings can occur and you may turn up to the theatre to find that someone else is in your seat. If this happens, notify a member of staff but please be aware that a customer who has bought tickets from the Box Office (and most likely paid far more) will take priority over those who bought their tickets from an approved outside agency. In such cases you may be moved to seats that are held back for problems like this. These seats are usually decent and if so, try asking for free drinks for being inconvenienced.
Most of London’s theatres were built in the late 19th or early 20th Century, with some even dating as far back as the 1600s. Because of the size difference of most people back then, seats are often narrow with scarce legroom. There is not much that can be done about this, but if you are particularly tall then you may want to book an aisle seat so you can stretch out when necessary. Although I agree that there is usually not much legroom, I have never found it to be too much of a problem, myself. If you are particularly concerned however, then it may be best to buy tickets for a weekday matinee as the auditorium is bound to be far emptier than on a Friday or Saturday night, leaving you more room to stretch!