TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS
To you all, theatremonkey says welcome and enjoy.
You were the inspiration for this site. The following bits of information don't fit elsewhere, but have been asked so often of this monkey by visitors that here seems a good place to put it all. Please add to this list Contact Us.
One reader produced a summary of this experience, which they hope will help
The monkey helps these pages will help you too...so here are its own list of tips:
Help the Box Office Clerk
As a rule, most expensive seats are in the Stalls and Dress Circle, with a few rows at the back a bit cheaper. Third and fourth prices are in the Upper Circle, with the balcony the cheapest. Restricted view seats and boxes are often at a discount. Do note that seats in boxes are often individually numbered, and if you don't buy all of them, then the other tickets will be sold to other people.
If you are shown a seating plan, the Stalls (Orchestra Stalls to Americans) and any circles / balconies, are divided off by thin lines. The Stalls is always the largest block of seats with the most rows in it. Row A (or a letter close to it) is the front row in every section of a theatre, stalls or circles / balconies. Pillars often show up as black dots on seating plans, and an unusual white space in among a row of seats is also a giveaway. A wide white space between rows often means an aisle - and in the Circles this can also often mean a wall or bars in front of the next row of seats...
Monkey has had reports that both online booking systems and telephone sales clerks have been splitting small parties by placing one or more members away from the rest on the other side of the aisle! The monkey advises scrutiny of the seating plans to make certain this does not happen to you. Also, do remember that some plans are more detailed than others, so do check more than one if you are not sure.
A reader also advises always considering phoning the theatre as an option as
the choice of seats and prices can vary. The reader writes in February 2007,
Another reader says,
Please also be aware that if an event is
cancelled, refunds may be limited to the price of the ticket only, with the
'booking fee' not refunded. This applies particularly to pop concert events.
Accepted Credit and Debit Cards
Debit cards are also usually fine, if issued by Mastercard or Visa.
The Official Half Price Booth at Leicester Square takes Visa, MasterCard, Amex and debit cards. It also accepts Euros currency.
The actual cardholder MUST be present and produce the credit card used to make the booking, when collecting tickets at the box office counter on the day of the performance. VERY IMPORTANT: Sometimes, when your credit card expires, the new one will have a different number. IF YOUR CARD IS DUE TO EXPIRE BEFORE THE DATE YOU ARE BOOKED TO GO TO THE THEATRE, KEEP YOUR OLD CARD TO MAKE IT EASY TO COLLECT YOUR TICKETS.
Theatremonkey's American friend Brian McKinney (of late Goodshow.com renown)
Sound advice, thinks the monkey, who would also add that if you are going to
make a large transaction - half a dozen "premium priced" tickets for example -
it can be worth anyone anywhere notifying their card company in advance.
You are also covered if your car breaks down en-route, or if public transport fails due to industrial action or breakdown. With huge ticket prices, this is a great way to protect your investment. It is a useful option to consider where offered, feels the monkey.
There are several to choose from, either offered as you buy, or as an annual policy.
Dress at the theatre
Monkeyesses as usual have a sartorial minefield to negotiate. Dress for comfort and to embarrass any hairy companion to look good for you. As for theatremonkeys, casual is fine at most performances, dresses, slacks, jeans and sweatshirts all acceptable. First nights require a smart but comfortable evening attire, not elaborate unless you are a celebrity though! Weekend evenings too can be a bit dressier than a weekday.
One tip though, if sitting anywhere but the Stalls, monkeyesses should consider skirt length carefully. Your knees will often be at head height to the person in front. A monkeyesse of the theatremonkey site's acquaintance wore a microskirt and spent the performance in mortal terror of offering a view to the gentleman in front which he hadn't reckoned on. This is passed on purely for information. But Theatremonkey thinks it is worth knowing.
In general London nights are cool, even in summer. It is worth remembering a warm garment if you have a long journey home after the evening performance as temperatures will have plummeted while you enjoyed the show. This tip also beats an over enthusiastic air conditioning system too.
Taking Photographs and Recordings
For copyright reasons cameras are often confiscated and images erased before return. If you want production photographs, buy the souvenir brochure (see below). The pictures will be better than the shadows your own camera will return anyway. Photographs of the auditorium should be taken only with management permission. Ask.
Recording is also strictly forbidden as it again infringes copyright. Buy a commercially available soundtrack from a high street shop (not the foyer, which sells at full price). Illegal recordings of all shows exist, up to your conscience to decide if you are going down this route. Theatremonkey doesn't.
One reader opines, though:
That Ringing Bell
It warns you to take your seat as the show is about to start. It also notifies the theatre staff to check that the restrooms and foyers are clear. This ensures that the curtain does not go up until almost everyone in the audience has been seated, since in the event of a problem, backstage staff can hold off the start for a few minutes if necessary.
At the Royal National Theatre, a civilised announcement is made - but the bells are so much more traditional thinks theatremonkey!
A standing ovation is usually saved until the end as the cast takes their final bows. Feel free if you are really impressed. Theatremonkey does.
I'm larger than average, can you help on locating suitable seats?
If you choose the "Theatreland Parking Scheme", you must get your car park ticket validated at the theatre's box office counter (the theatre attendant will insert the car parking ticket into a small machine which updates the information held on the magnetic strip on the reverse, thus enabling the discount). When you pay using the machines at the car park, 50% will be deducted from the full tariff. You may park for up to 24 hours using this scheme and it is endorsed by the Society of London Theatre.
ENGLISH TERM……AMERICAN TERM……NOTES
Dress Circle…. Mezzanine or first mezzanine…Seats in the first balcony. Best in the theatre. Some theatres call this the Royal Circle or something else. Check on this site under theatre descriptions. Few London Theatres have a Rear Mezzanine, and when they do, it will just be considered part of the Dress Circle.
Upper Circle…Second Mezzanine or Balcony…Seats in the second balcony. Mostly quite high up and sold at similar prices to the rear stalls.
Balcony or Gallery… Gallery or second balcony… Seats in the third level balcony. Not all theatres have them. Where they do, they are very high up - often 100 feet or more from the stage, vertically! The audience is caged in behind elaborate safety bars.
Usher/ette… Attendant… Found in the foyer and in the auditorium. They do NOT expect a tip to show you to your seat. In fact, you will not usually be shown at all, just pointed in the approximate direction.
Touts… Scalpers… Avoid, see Avoiding Touts and Scalpers.
Seating Plan...seat map or seating chart.
Day Seats... Rush seats. Tickets held back for sale on the day of the performance to personal callers at the theatre box office. Common in subsidised theatres like the National, rare in the commercial West End. For hit shows, lines may start before 7am. If getting in line, make sure you have both cash and credit cards as different payment policies may apply each time - sometimes depending on whether tickets are true "Rush Seats" or simply "Returns" (unwanted tickets sent to the theatre for re-sale).
The 'programme' usually priced about £5, sometimes up to £10 if no "Souvenir Brochure" is issued and a combined glossy effort happens instead - contains a cast list and brief biographies, list of scenes and settings, sometimes a plot synopsis, a couple of photographs, a few articles about the author/play and a history of the theatre. Ushers inside the auditorium itself, and occasionally in the foyer sell it.
A glossy 'Souvenir Brochure' priced around £7 - £10 is sold in addition to programmes at the big musicals. This is sold in the foyer, in order to shift the stock before the cheaper option is discovered inside the auditorium. This brochure contains large colour pictures of the show, and a few articles about its' creation. It does not contain a cast list, list of songs, or anything specific to that actual performance - for that you need… the programme.
In 2016, the monkey was fascinated to find out that "Breakfast At Tiffany's" at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, was charging £6 for a programme Monday to Thursday, and £8 on Friday and Saturday! "Dynamic Pricing" of souvenirs, has to be a first, it thinks!
Subsidised theatres - The Royal National Theatre, Royal Court and Royal Shakespeare Company make a free cast list available at the door. Look for the dispenser rack just beside the auditorium entrance. Generous Cameron Mackintosh makes these available in the Prince Of Wales and Prince Edward Theatres too. Almost making up for introducing booking fees.
Other souvenirs are available, see Making Your Visits Fun.
Magnification is not bad, and, where available, the glasses are worth using. Arrive early to get a set, and if you must try another row to get some, take them from the ends of the row as they will be easier to return at the end of the performance.
Do not forget to return them, they are loaned, and theatregoers have been prosecuted in the past for theft. If you cannot return them to a holder, hand them to a member of staff or leave them on your seat top.
Keen theatremonkeys buy their own, but you have to see a lot of shows to justify the cost.
Read the play
Foreign Language Assistance
Theatre Tokens is a non for profit scheme run on
behalf on the UK theatre industry and is administered by The Society of London
Theatre. Theatre Tokens never expire unlike other similar vouchers and are
available in £5, £10, £20 and £50 denominations. Change is also given in Theatre
Tokens should the tickets be less than the Theatre Token you hold.
Large agencies also issue their own tokens for
purchase through their own companies.
In fact, Ticketmaster do accept SOLT tokens for most shows - BUT users should be careful to use only the booking numbers listed in the gift voucher folder that comes with the tokens as they don't accept them for all... AND try and call weekdays 9am to 6pm when it is most likely the agency tokens office staff will be available to help (often the general telephone team don't know about tokens and can cause the kind of chaos the reader described above). Also, if you do have a problem redeeming SOLT tokens, calling Tokenline on 0870 164 8800 can help resolve issues.
....... Luckily, it prefers bananas anyway.
Send us your tips, hints and experiences. Contact Us.