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For the larger Theatregoer
a page of advice compiled in association with reader Sam.
London theatres were generally built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s,
expected to last only a few years…and cater for people far less well nourished
and generally smaller than today. As a result, the tall and, er, broader person
may well find seats and legroom less than accommodating.
Legroom (and indeed all matters of seat comfort and view) are discussed on a
venue-by-venue basis on this site, indexed by
clicking here. In the case of legroom it is generally the ends of rows
without seats in front, rows with gangways in front (but no partitioning walls /
bars) and boxes with movable seating that provide most. Sadly, aside from
desirable seating on a gangway in the centre stalls or circle, the other options
generally sacrifice some view for the comfort. This is minimised by taking row
ends or boxes towards the rear of the theatre, rather than at the front near the
sides of the stage. As any mathematician will tell you, the distance increases
the viewing angle - sometimes significantly – though watch for overhangs cutting
the top off the stage!
For the broader proportioned, no theatre in London provides "extra wide" seating
at present, and again any seat providing extra comfort will usually have some
other drawback - a limited view or restricted legroom. A few have slightly wider
seats as they are more modern, but since the difference is literally only around
5cm, it isn’t much, alas. Theatres with very slightly wider seats
include the Noel Coward (centre balcony only), Queens (stalls only), Prince Of Wales and the London
Palladium. The Royal Court Theatre Downstairs has arm-rests that can be raised
between seats if two tickets are purchased in the stalls.
Venues with some bench or chair / bar-stool seating without arm-rests include
Warehouse*, Pit*, Trafalgar Studio Two* and also Upper Circle row K (normally not on public sale) at the Playhouse
Theatre. Barbican Theatre Upper Circle row AA* and BB* seats 1 and 11 are also
wider, as are Noel Coward balcony seats B3 and C3.
Note that venues marked * have limited legroom in most seats and access to
centre of the row will be harder for many. Generally only the front row of the
venue or the few seats without seats in front of them will be suitable.
At other venues, in general only those theatres with boxes containing movable
seating are even partially accommodating. Do also be aware that sometimes these
are also a way from the theatre entrances and restroom facilities making further
difficulties for those with health issues.
One reader says of the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue:
"It was hell! I purchased seat number D10 in the Upper
Circle for a performance of "Smaller" (April 2006). Oh the irony at even mentioning the
name of the play! Unfortunately, the seat I sat in was not the one I had
paid for. I found that I had to sit sideways, not only due to the non-existent leg room, but also due to the seats being extremely narrow.
slightly broader theatre-goer (size 18 and 5ft 8), I never expect to be
sitting in a seat that is vastly wider than myself, but I do expect to be
able to fit into the seat. Imagine my mortification to find that I
couldn't! I initially tried by sitting sideways, but found this unbearable
as there was no leg room and both seats either side of me was occupied. in
the end I spent the first half of the play standing at the back, and managed
to find an unoccupied aisle seat to sit in for the second half, which I
still had to sit in sideways but was able to stretch one leg out into the
aisle. However, I now find that I have bruises on my left leg which was
unfortunately wedged against the seat in front.
As the two leads of the
play are both role models for the larger lady, I would be amazed to discover
I am the only person with this complaint. It is debatable whether Alison Moyet would be able to squeeze into the seat, while Dawn French wouldn't
have a hope! I have been told that if I had purchased a seat in the stalls
or Dress Circle I wouldn't have had this problem. Unfortunately, I couldn't
afford these, so am in effect being punished for being overweight! Isn't it
about time theatres realised they need to update their seating arrangements
for the 21st Century audience?!"
Another reader reports the following experiences,
Royal Albert Hall: "We were in box number 25 with an amazing
view. All the boxes appear to have the same chairs however... These are free
standing metal chairs. As a larger person I often find seats in the theatre
"snug" but this was the first time that I have ever found a theatre seat
that I absolutely could not fit in. This was mortifyingly embarrassing...
the seats were very narrow.. even my husband who is tall but not fat, found
them to be extremely snug. I decided to ask our box host (member of staff)
whether there was a chair without arms - he was not sure but very quickly
came back with a chair without arms. As the chairs were free standing it was
possible to swap the chair and I was able to enjoy the show in comfort. I
wanted to let you know that these seats may not be suitable for larger
Aldwych Theatre: "strange seats at
the side of the upper circle. at an angle... not a good view in my opinion
but not uncomfortable."
Apollo Victoria Theatre: "Good leg
room and large seats in the stalls. Less good within the circle area in both
areas.. but still acceptable."
Dominion Theatre: "Very comfy and large seats in the stalls
for the larger person. Circle area the seats seemed slightly smaller but
Noel Coward Theatre: "big enough seats in the stalls, slightly
cramped but I suppose O.K."
Always check with venues before booking, as different production designs can
alter seating suitability, particularly in the front row stalls and ends of
rows, and in boxes. If in any doubt, contacting the theatre’s disabled helpline
should elicit specific information.
On a more positive note, Richard, of singles site,
"Actually there are two things us tall people are cautious of when
booking tickets 1) is there long legroom (its pretty horrible watching a 3
hour performance with your knees up around your ears!) and 2) is there
anyone sitting behind who's view is going to be interrupted (this is mainly
so a) the people behind can still see the performance which they paid for
but also b) so we don't get the "Oi we can't see" or "Now I can only see
half the stage" comments! (he he)."
So, it does work both ways!
This page is still growing, if you have details to add, feel free to