How do you fancy winning yourself some theatre vouchers? £100 worth. Enough to indulge in 2 good seats in the dress circle. Or 4 tickets in the cheap seats. How about earning some vouchers for just a teeny bit of effort on top of watching a show in the West End? Well read on…
Apologies for the click-baity headline and intro – but it’s for good reason. A few weeks ago I met some of the team behind Seat Plan. They want to help improve your theatre-going experience. Because, when you think about it, buying theatre tickets can sometimes be a bit of a gamble. You buy them based off a boxy diagram which, at best, bears a passing resemblance to the actual position of seats, and at worst, is wildly misleading. Even if you do buy them in person from the box office, I’m not sure how obliging the staff would be if you asked to have a wander around the various tiers of the auditorium before choosing your seat(s) and parting with money.
Here’s the layout for the Aldwych Theatre. Have a good look at row AA in the Grand Circle and then row A in the Dress Circle (and Boxes B, D and E):
Now look at a photo of the inside, taken from the Dress Circle:
You see the problem? That grid hardly indicates the curvature.
Much as I hate to be cynical, theatres want your money. Provided they’ve listed a seat as ‘restricted view’ and possibly detailed what that actually means, you’ve got very little comeback if you decide you’re not happy with the view. You wouldn’t shell out £40 on a pair of shoes without trying them on first, especially if you knew you couldn’t get a refund or another size if they didn’t fit (unless you’re one of those oligarch-y types who has a diamond-encrusted toothbrush just because you can). Yet this is exactly how we are expected to buy our seats in a theatre – and West End tickets aren’t cheap. Price brackets are sometimes a bit of a conundrum. Is a £27.50 seat in the back row of the stalls comparable to a £27.50 seat in the front of the Balcony?
So Seat Plan want to help take some of that mystery out of buying tickets by reviewing all 50,000 seats in London’s theatres. For that, they need YOU. It doesn’t matter whether you go to the theatre once a year, once a month or once a week – your opinion is valuable and it is needed. So this information is there for you to use too, but right now, over 90% of those 50,000 seats are, as yet, unreviewed. You can work retrospectively on shows you’ve seen in the last few years (dig out those ticket stubs you have lying in a drawer or go through your confirmation emails for seat details) or review your seat after you’ve seen something.
The site is very easy to navigate, so you can search by either the theatre or the show you saw, find your seat by tier, row and number, then fill in as much detail as you can. How was the legroom? How was your view of the stage? Did you have to lean forward to see over the front? If someone tall sat in front of you, was this a problem? If you were over to one side, did it curve around more or less than you thought it would? Did you lose one side of the stage completely? Were there lots of stairs? Was it steep? Could you see this being a real problem for someone with vertigo? Did you think it was good value for money? Did you get a bargain or did you watch the show wishing you’d sat somewhere else, even if that meant paying a bit more? All of this is useful.
By simply filling in these reviews, you gain points – and what do points mean? PRIZES! You gain points (well, awards) for reviews, photos of your view (taken while the safety curtain is down), photos of your ticket stubs etc. 50 awards gets you a £10 theatre voucher. The more detail you provide, the more awards you’ll tot up. Every month they’ll choose their favourite seat review and that person wins one hundred smackers in theatre vouchers. I did. And I think this is the first time in my life I’ve ever won anything.
So come and join the Seat Plan revolution – let’s help each other to make informed choices on our theatre tickets.
Now – what shows to see with my vouchers. And who to take. And where to sit. Ahhhh, I know just the website…