Theatres and other venues around London that theatremonkey and its readers enjoy visiting and sharing their knowledge of:
Troubadour Theatre, Wembley Park:
This is a massively flexible auditorium seating up to 2000. There is no air-conditioning, just air-cooling.
The monkey has so far only seen the main "end on" layout. Banks of seats, divided into front and rear sections by an aisle across row N. Further aisles split each section into centre and two side blocks. The aisles are flexible, but seat numbers stay the same no matter the configuration, apparently.
All seats are padded, with cup-holders, but no arm-rests. Legroom is good for anyone up to 6ft in all seats except K 1 to 4 and 51 to 54 which have rails in front and less space. There is unlimited legroom in the front row, and the cross-aisle row N, plus ZE 11 to 13 and 42 to 44; row M 1 to 4 and 51 to 54 has an extra two inches or so of legroom compared to the rest. In the front section, the outermost two seats of the three rows behind the front row may also have nothing in front.
The front rows as far back as row B are NOT raked (tiered to see over the seats ahead). They are also only off-set around half an inch. The stage is usually above head height to someone 5ft 10 or so to compensate. All other rows are tiered with around a 10cm difference in height between each row. Seats are not, however, off-set at all, so you will be directly behind the person in front. The only exception is in K 1 to 4 and 41 to 54 and T 23 to 32 which have safety rails in front. If over 5ft 7 tall, row T has a fine view and legroom is also good. Skip row K as the rail will interrupt all views and even if 6ft tall to see over it... you won't be comfortable.
For the configuration the monkey saw, with a standard stage at one end, in the front section it would skip the outermost four seats in the main centre block rows AAA to M, and also miss the two tiny extra side blocks K to M 1 to 4 and 51 to 54 if possible. A sound desk in central J to M won't worry anyone, but be aware the entire centre block in the rear section will look over it and see the staff at work. Note that there is NO aisle beside the outermost seat numbers - usually 1 and 54 in any row from A back to M. They are against a railing.
In the rear section, the view is better from even the back row than the seating plan suggests. Pretty close - think about the rear of the Palladium dress circle for comparison. Take a row where the price drops and you won't have any difference in view but will save cash. The only seats it would miss are the outermost 6 seats in all rows except maybe ZD and ZE which are discounted heavily enough to make them worth considering at bottom price. You will lose the rear corners of the stage from all of these. The extra legroom seats at ZE 11 to 13 and 42 to 44 are well worth a look if you don't mind folk using the aisles during the show. Do also note that there is NO aisle beside P to ZE 1 or 54. They are against a railing.
A restaurant and bar on site are pleasant. Oh, and they have 36 toilets for ladies and 2 adapted toilets and promise no queue...
"Newsies" in 2023, a reader notes,
"Avoid the far sides (Flushing and Bronx blocks) like the plague as you can’t appreciate the dancing from there at all. Woodside and Richmond just about work (I was second row in Richmond) with the bonus that you’re always fairly close to the performers, even when they’re at the back of the big stage, but you see the dancing from the side. So, really, Brooklyn is where you want to be or even further up in Manhattan for the better overview."
"Manhattan, ZB 11 and 12 have a clear view of the stage and decent legroom, but it did feel quite far away from the action. Agree with others that if you can be closer to the stage, do. £30 for these seats felt steep. The sound wasn't great either, but I think that was the sound system generally that made the voices not come through as clearly as they could have been. I think this was mentioned in one of the reviews I read afterwards.
The monkey adds "first impressions notes" for the show, readers are welcome to submit their own:
The stage is at waist height to a 5ft 7 monkey and projects far into the centre of the auditorium. Be aware that the corners of Brooklyn with Richmond and Woodside have slopes from the stage, which are a tripping hazard.
The auditorium is split into front and rear sections. All rows have steps between them.
The front section has two centre sections split by an aisle - Brooklyn, with two small side sections on either side of the stage – Flushing (lowest numbers, furthest from main blocks), Woodside on one side, The Bronx (highest numbers, furthest from main blocks), Richmond on the other.
The rear section is called Manhattan.
Legroom is good in all seats for those up to 5ft 10 at least, unlimited in the front row D in Brooklyn, AA in the others. Also in Brooklyn E16, 17, 38 and 39 have nothing in front.
A reader notes that Brooklyn,
"row E in Brooklyn (second row) is not stepped like the others, it is slightly higher than the row in front as it’s a tall seat but if you get someone tall in front of you could impede the view considerably. It is cheaper to account for this however."
Flushing, The Bronx, Richmond and Woodside have a gap behind row CC. Row DD is raised with a rail in front, but legs can go into the space ahead behind row CC when not used by the actors.
In Manhattan, P also has unlimited legroom as do V23 to 32 with aisle in front.
The show is played very much to the front, so skip anything premium in the side blocks.
Be aware there are platforms over the doors either side of Brooklyn. The mixture of rails and floor really affect side views from all seats facing the stage at the ends of rows from J back. Go 19 to 36 in Brooklyn in all rows D to L.
Out to the sides, don’t be tempted by cheap seats at the far ends of the Bronx or Flushing. You will see the show from behind and miss anything happening on the main set. Anyone in the side blocks outside around 15 to 40 in all rows will find parts of the show missed as well.
The monkey did feel sitting in DD back in Flushing, The Bronx, Richmond and Woodside helped a bit with the viewing angle, but AA has a far more exciting experience of the show.
Section Manhattan at the back is affected by the platforms at the ends and a door entry area in the centre.
Do not go more than 6 seats off the centre aisle in P to U, and avoid V to ZE 23 to 32 if possible as there is an aisle end rail in view. Oddly V22 and 33 have an unobstructed view down the aisle.
If opting for the cheapest Manhattan seats, keep away from the side walls as far as you can is the monkey advice.
Based on “first view” and it welcomes reader opinions. The monkey has only had a quick look and notes the following:
The venue is trapezium shaped, with a stage on the longest sides and screens wrapping around it. The centre area is for standing and the furthest point is around 20 metres from the stage. Choose to stand in the front centre or on the right as you face the stage. Those standing on the left will find singers block the view of the avatars at times. Standing further back will give a good view of the screens. Standing to the sides or front provides walls / rails to lean against.
Beside and behind the arena and above it to about shoulder-height for those standing in front is a gallery of 3 rows of seats. The end blocks nearest the stage are angled towards it. While the view is clear, if anyone stands up in front of you, you see nothing. Likewise, anyone putting someone on their shoulders in the arena will impede the view. Also note that arena folk put their used glasses / cans on the shelf in front of row A, very pleasant – but that happens in a venue with no bins provided.
Legroom is fine to around 5ft 9 in row A, to 6ft or so in the two rows behind, and unlimited in the first and last seat in rows B and C. Note that you can walk to the furthest seats in these blocks from the entrance, as there is a staircase – no need to push along the length of the row. Probably the centre block gives a better overall view and sound than the sides, but there is no really bad seat.
Behind these 3 rows is a wall, with “access” seating behind that. Not a bad view, feels the monkey. Again, central seats may give a wider view.
A wide aisle, then rear blocks row A have unlimited legroom in front. The rise is steep enough to see over those ahead if they are not standing. Best and most expensive views are considered to be in the centre blocks facing the stage, and the back rows here are around 30 metres minimum from it.
Side blocks are decent value. The cheapest corners are fine – nothing in the way and you will see over the singers and band if seated in block F (take K on the other side first). Note that prices increase the further forward and more central you go here, so take the seats behind / next to the more expensive ones, the view is pretty much the same. The monkey would go cheaper and take F or K over J and G next to them, particularly if it can get seats next to the aisle which splits them.
The centre rear area also has “dance booths.” If you want a party with a central view but not close to the stage, the monkey can see the attraction if the ticket price is no object.
All seats are wide, padded and comfortable and have cup-holders in the arm-rests.
Small general points:
Signage to your seats is lacking. Everybody goes in at the main doors in the centre of the foyer, just check if you are “left side” blocks A, B, G, F or “right side” blocks D, E, J, K. Centre seats C and H can use either, depending on seat numbers.
Signage to the venue is also lacking. It is directly over the road from the DLR station, but a mere 20 minute walk from Stratford Station anyway... if anyone told you where to roam. The monkey went right out of the station to the end, right onto the main Stratford High Road and walked past Tesco, crossing a couple of roads to the old Olympic entrance alleyway on the right. Follow that as it goes to the left at the bridge and there is the venue. It wouldn’t do it alone at night, though, and the path’s condition is pretty horrible.
The monkey also found that despite the warnings, you can print off your ticket from a screen grab and it will work when the usher can’t read it off your phone and the ticket vanishes...
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre:
The Globe has a unique and wonderful website www.shakespearesglobe.com which actually allows you to look at the stage from every section of the theatre seating. http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/about-us/virtual-tour. With coverage like that, a theatremonkey report seems a little unnecessary! Look under "Booking" on their website for this useful information.
One reader says of the place, following a first visit,
"must remember next time to get seats in Row A where you can lean forward, or Row E where you can lean back. We were in Row B in the middle on the lowest level which was a great view but the lack of back support was a bit of a problem for us."
“A6 and 7: “Henry V,” (Chris B). These seats have a side on view of the stage but as they are the front row, they allow for a good clear view of the stage. This is a very unique venue, and you almost feel privileged to be part of such a historical building. They are far enough to the right to avoid looking directly at the large pillar holding up the front of the canopy over the stage. These seats are also raised so you can easily see over the many people standing in the ‘yard’. As it is primarily Shakespeare performed here and most are 3 hours plus, I’d recommend getting a seat and also either hiring a cushion or sitting on a coat etc as the seats are very uncomfortable (essentially wooden boards). I wouldn’t say these seats are perfect by any stretch but you are close enough to hear everything, see most of it, even if from a side view, and of course covered if it rains. Plus they are very cheap which is always good.
Regular reader Taaljard weighs in with, "Sat in the from row of the lower circle, perfect view for "Richard II" in 2015.
Another reader adds, in 2016: 28th May 2016, "The Taming of the Shrew." Yard: It’s simple: Pay just £5 for a standing only ticket. Be 2 hours early to queue for a spot directly at the stage. Be ready to duck from actor’s spittle (almost every performance) or large amounts of fake blood (Titus Andronicus). Yes, it’s somewhat uncomfortable and exhausting to stand for so long, but the immediacy of being so close to (and sometimes in the middle of) the action makes it worthwhile. Experienced "groundlings" bring a little stool for queuing.
"I'm a great big fatty, and tall too at 6'3". I notice that you don't say anything about the Globe, or their new indoor theatre the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I've found both to be very comfortable if you go for tickets in the front row of whatever section you're in."
"AA 4 (Romantics Anonymous - December 2017): This was my first visit to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and depending on the production, I would certainly go again. I was limited on my choice of seat, so I chose what I thought was the best seat. In fact this seat is excellent. Seating is on benches and I was at the end near the aisle on the front row, which is just above stage height, so you look slightly down on the stage. The seat gave me an excellent view of the stage and the actors were so close, that you could almost touch them. Leg room was adequate for a person my height 5' 10", but someone taller might be a bit more cramped. The seats are functional, rather than comfortable and I was glad to get up and have a walk in the interval."
A reader says, "www.cadoganhall.com have a ‘’view from seat’ function, which enables you to ‘see’ the sightlines to the stage from various seats (As it is primarily a concert venue, I would have thought the most important thing would be the sound, but that is another matter) From a brief view, and my own knowledge of the hall it seemed pretty helpful."
On the venue itself the reader continues,
"As the Cadogan Hall has been relatively recently renovated into a venue, they have been able to pay attention to the seating, without structural compromises – the seats are comfortable and ‘good’ everywhere so they are proud to show them – though I would personally avoid those right down the front, because you either get a fabulous view up a soloists armpit or strain to see the back region of an orchestra"
"We have visited there a few times and have to say that even in the cheaper seats at the back it is very comfortable, nice seats, lots of leg room and also the sound quality is good. That is I suppose, as long as you do not sit behind one of the pillars! They do have a good view from your seat application though, so you know what your getting."
"Stalls DD 4: Good view. Sometimes the band overpowered the singers. Not sure if it was proximity to the musicians, poor sound mixing or distance from the speakers. Room for one leg in the aisle (sometimes both). Comfortable."
The monkey notes that in the stalls the rake (slope) kicks in at the fourth row and is noticeable beyond that. The back row are "high chairs" with a rail foot rest. The platform is high, chin height to a 5ft 7 monkey. Legroom is excellent in all seats. The view from the side blocks isn't anywhere as good as the centre block and the sound is slightly less than perfect - on the other hand the discount makes them worthwhile.
The balcony seats are the wooden pews of the original church. The seats are nicely padded, the backs are wooden. No arm-rests (and few seat numbers!) except for the end seats in each pew.
Rails - double height in front of the block nearest the stage will affect views. The front of the stage is level with the second block from the end, at its aisle with the third block. There is nothing in front of the last seat either end of row B. Legroom is adequate for those up to around 5ft 9 at least in all seats except row A where it is around 5ft 7 and some seats have far less legroom - the system indicates those. The monkey noted blocks A and O row B seats 1 and 2 on the far ends have nothing in front. Likewise Block E row B 28 and 29 and Block K row B 53 seem to have extra legroom.
Centre block seats F20 is not on an aisle and E11 to 13 / 21 to 23 are cramped little pews. Rows E and F are built up quite a lot higher than those in front. Best views up in the circle seem to be from the corners of E, F J and K, but B and N are nice and close to the stage and cheaper too.
New Wimbledon Theatre:
A reader opines,
"My own personal comments are that at Wimbledon I used to sit as close as possible in the Front Stalls but recently I have found that the front of the Dress Circle is now my favourite. With an ATG Card I can often get significant discounts on those seats, especially at evenings early in the week and at the mid-week matinee. I have only once sat in the extensive Back Stalls (for Matthew Bourne’s ‘The Red Shoes’) and it was horrendous, with my sight lines seriously blocked by normal-sized people in the rows in front of me. Never again! I have never sat in the Upper Circle. Wimbledon is good to see tours of large-scale musicals."
A reader says,"What's in a name? - middle of Row O in the stalls - sure there is an overhang, but it was not a problem for this performance, or, I imagine, many others.
The rake is not wonderful, however, at the point, and I had an exceptionally tall man in front of me, and much of the action is when the actors are seated.
So I had to lean a little, but it was worth it. They often have seats in Row O for £13, which is a bargain for a great show like this."
"I once sat in the front row of the Dress Circle near the end and it was very uncomfortable as the row curved sharply and the arm-rests on the seat were pointing towards each other so there was scarcely room for me to squeeze my ample girth into the seat. These days I always sit in the Stalls as close as possible. The stage is rather high so A row requires a bit of neck strain but one gets used to it and again with my ATG Card I often get good reductions for certain performances. I have never sat in the Upper Circle. Richmond has a more specialised programme including pre-West End try-outs (‘The Best Man’ with Martin Shaw being a recent example) and niche productions like Sasha Regan’s wonderful all-male Gilbert and Sullivan operas."
The London O2 arena at the Millennium Dome:
To book, a "choose your own seat" system is available once initial sales have finished at the main venue website www.theO2.co.uk. Don't forget that seating in the centre of a venue often isn't fixed until the very last second as stages are portable and nobody quite knows where equipment will go - hence nobody has total plans online because crystal balls are in short supply, alas!
The monkey finally took a look in June 2019. It wasn't impressed. Legroom is tight for those over 5ft 7 or so except in the centre ground area, where those up to 6ft should be fine.
For stage at one end events:
At ground centre arena level, the stage is very high - above head height for someone 6ft tall. There is no slope or tier or off-set to any seats, so those more than 10 or so rows back can expect little. Block A row X is about the same as being in row V of the London Palladium for distance to the stage. Once past row D of block B, your chances of really seeing the stars are low.
In the lower tier, level 1 blocks 101 to 118. First, very, very steep, and you enter from the back row and walk down. Rail across the front of row A will be in view for those in A and B, possibly C. Another rail runs in front of row H. If in 101, 102, 111 and 112, choose your entrance door carefully. There are 2. 1 marked, one not. Pick the wrong one, and you have an embarrassing walk along the row. Read numbers on a small sign above each door. Don't bother with the staff - they are rude and don't know anything.
Choosing level 1, you want rows D to F, to no higher than about 64 in block 102 / no lower than 153 in block 111. Much further round, you are miles from the front, and if you are going up the sides, by row N you are a good way from the stage in all blocks. If they have corners of 113 / 118 on sale, front rows of those can be a decent close-ish view of the stage at "stage at one end" events, even if it is behind the stage a bit.
For arena events, again, just go for D to F as closest to the show.
Level 3 boxes are all miles from the stage. Even those closest to it won't get much of a close-up view.
Level 4 is just high and steep. As in, higher than the rear balcony of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Even the front row is in a different post-code, and if the stage is at one end, block 412 is on a different planet.
A reader reports,
" personally I wouldn’t go for the upper tier seating – it is very steep and not particularly pleasant – you know it’s bad when you see people coming down the steps backwards (true I swear!)"
Three other tips:
Arrive 1 hour 20 before the show to clear security searches. Ignore instructions to only put bags and phones in the plastic box before metal-detector. Empty your pockets of ALL metal, including keys. Use the time in line to do this, decanting stuff to the Ziploc bag you have brought with you for the purpose after reading this.
Inside, if they change most toilets to "ladies" for the show, the only gents on level one is near block 108.
After the show, if heading for the underground station, look for the long line to go in, marshalled against the wall. Head instead at a diagonal to your left for the bus station. Once under the bus station canopy, turn right. You can get into the tube station from there.
The Kiln Theatre (formerly the Tricycle Theatre):
A visit by the monkey in September 2018 revealed the following:
The theatre is a standard "end on" shoebox, with stepped seating in both stalls and circle. The circle overhangs around row K but doesn't affect views from any seat.
Either side of the stage at both stalls and circle level are single rows of slip seats. The slips have a side on view and no space to stretch legs out. Up to around 5ft 6 downstairs, 5ft 5 upstairs. View is sideways and misses the near corner of the stage. Best views are in the seat closest to the stage (practically on it, in the stalls first two seats) and the rest of the downstairs slips, or furthest away nearest the main seating in the circle slips.
In the stalls, rows A to C are flat on the floor, with D back on steps behind that. The stage is below head height to those 5ft 6 or taller, though this will vary by production. Row A has less legroom than rows behind as there is no space to put feet under seats. Cramped for someone 5ft 7 or more. If B is the front row, the same would apply.
Legroom is fine for those up to 5ft 11 or so in all other rows B to K. K has considerably more with a wide aisle in front, suitable for any height. Legroom in L to N is cramped for those over 5ft 5 or so, and no space to put legs under seats, either.
The steps between rows in C back is not that great, but fairly sufficient. Best views are from around F to J. Do note, though, if shorter that off-set between seats, to see round those in front is excellent in B, F and J, and acceptable from L back, but seats are almost behind each other in other rows.
Seats L1, N1 and N15 have nothing in front, L15 is 60% clear in front.
In the circle, legroom is limited in A - cramped if over 5t 6 or so, and oddly even less in B due to a wooden runner at floor level. Rows C back have decent legroom up to around 5ft 10, and the steps between rows are moderately high, ensuring a good view. The monkey was impressed by C to E, noting only that E may feel a little claustrophobic as it is in an alcove at the back. Still great seats, it thinks, for view, comfort and price.
A reader says,
"Stalls H12: Close to stage, OK rake, good legroom, so all in all a good seat. It’s a fairly intimate theatre so almost every seat in the stalls would be good, I imagine."
Alexandra Palace Theatre:
(based totally on "first impressions" in March 2019).
The circle does not overhang the stalls, and nor do the side galleries. The stage is a flexible space that can be widened to almost the width of the room and brought forward, or left in proscenium layout.
Note that rows can be removed and added in both the stalls and circle slips SL and SR.
Divided into front and rear sections by a cross aisle behind row K.
The blocks are divided into a wide central block and two narrower side blocks.
Rows AA to K are on an unraked (no slope) wooden floor. They are fixed chairs with arm-rests, and are not off-set very much behind the row in front.
The stage is above head height to someone 5ft 9 or so. Those more than two rows from the front will struggle to see past heads.
Side block seats are mostly outside the proscenium arch. Sit in the central aisle seat and no more than two off the aisle for the best of the views here.
Legroom in this section is fine for those even 6ft and over – just hope you don’t sit behind someone of that height, is the rule.
The rear section from rows L to U are a fairly well stepped grandstand section reaching almost to the height of the circle front. The view does not feel to far away from any seat.
Seating is comfortable, quite wide theatre seats. Row L is on the cross-aisle with nothing in front and unlimited legroom. In other rows M to T, there is legroom in all seats to around 5ft 11, and seats 6 and 25 in rows M to T have nothing in front.
Row L is on the same level as rows in front, with M only raised a little behind it. Monkey advice is to take rows from N or even O back, to see over the heads of those in the front section. Centre block first, though sides are acceptable here.
The main section is at the back of the theatre, above and behind the stalls. Between the front of the circle and the stage runs a single row of side slip seats, hugging the side walls of the theatre.
In the main section, the seating is standard theatre style on steps. Legroom is acceptable in all seats to those up to around 5ft 8 at least, and the view is good, if a little distant from rear rows.
In the side blocks of the main section, the back row feels almost like a private box, tucked quite firmly into the corner.
The monkey would take any seat in the main section, as rails are few (just on the ends of rows from D back) and there appear to be few sightline issues.
Down the sides of the theatre, the slips, you will need to look sideways to see the show, and those closest to the stage will miss action to the near side.
The slips alternate between those on the circle floor, with 9 seats in a row, then 6 seats in a raised booth above circle floor height, then another 9 seats, and another raised booth and another 9 seats.
Within the raised booth, the thick safety rail at the front restricts sightlines more than seats at the lower level.
At the lower level, the spacing seems sufficient to see around the raised booths. Be aware that if seated at the end of the lower level rows, the seat closest to the stage each time may have a safety rail in the eye-line, which is pretty irritating.
Legroom in all seats will start to feel cramped to those 5ft 6 or more – end seats will allow you to move your leg sideways, though.
Slip seats are used or removed depending on staging and whether lighting is placed there.
The theatre is equipped with lavish toilet facilities leading off the main foyer. You therefore do not need to use the first (crowded) toilets that are encountered if entering via the main doors of the East Court entrance (to the left of those doors as you go in).
Signage isn’t great, so be aware that from South Terrace, pedestrians go through the car park and either in via East Court Entrance to the left of the car park area as you enter it, or direct to the theatre entrance located around the side of the building at the far corner (if that North Foyer entrance is in use).
The Roundhouse Theatre:
In June 2012 reader Chris B reports of "Twelfth Night,":
Circle A14 and B14: Excellent clear view of the extremely expansive stage. You feel very close and the view is slightly side on but this makes no difference. There is a safety barrier just to the right which can easily be seen around and doesn't impact view. There is plenty of leg room, especially with both seats being an aisle seat."
The monkey took a look in late 2018 and noted that the circle is pretty tight in almost all seats for those 5ft 7 and above, except aisles and a few seats with nothing in front in the central block. Seats C, D and E 1 look through metal railings if the stage is at one end of the venue - but the advantage of having nobody in front and being close to the stage makes them worth considering. Also, seats on that end of the circle have a side aisle. If you are on the highest numbers the other side, it doesn't - and it's fairly hard to exit the place as it is.
Standing, the monkey noted that the vey sides of the stage didn't attract standees until late, and that the pillars closest to it seems to provide decent leaning spots. Otherwise, it is one heck of a crush and you won't see much from a third of the way back or so, it feels.
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch:
A quick visit in 2018 showed that it's two blocks, with a wide aisle behind row D, a tall rail directly behind it. There are steps between each row, but the steps are around 5cm, so fairly shallow. Legroom is good to 6ft in all rows, including the front row, and unlimited in row E. The stage is below head height to anyone of 5ft 5 or more. It is a wide stage, so expect to look sideways from central seats, and across from those off centre in rows A to D. Moving back, the rail is in view in rows E to H, but doesn't affect sightlines that much. The monkey would probably go for D forward or J back, though. Further back does feel distant from the stage at about row L. The sound desk will bother nobody on row R. Sit anywhere, with B to D 4 off the aisle inwards the green area, feels the monkey.
The Shepherds Bush Empire:
A reader contributes
"Stalls: I generally find the view not that great unless you manage to get right up the front - although there are 2 possies either side of the bar with a step that accommodates around 2 people each... so if you managed to grab that spot you would have a great view.
Level 1: I much prefer level 1 and some of the best spots are around the sides where there are 2 rows of seating and behind them a sort of wall with a leaning bar - all give unrestricted views and allow you to stand up and dance (and easy egress to the bar/toilets)."
Sadler's Wells Theatre:
The front rows are removable to create an orchestra pit. When in use, the front two rows are flat on the floor and have a restricted view with the stage above head height to someone 5ft 8 and the back invisible to all seated here.
For shows using an orchestra pit, the front row is BB. Legroom is for those up to around 5ft 6, the view to the back of the stage also limited.
All rows back to C are flat on the floor but seats are off-set to see between rows ahead, and the stage is high.
From row D, every row is on a step around 5cm higher than the row in front.
Legroom in all rows is acceptable to those up to around 6ft tall, with more in rows A and AA. Seats G4 and 30, H3 and 32 and U 4 and 31 have nothing in front of them. U5 and 30 are 99.5% clear in front. Row K 4 to 10 also have nothing in front, for wheelchair spaces – K5 and 6 are two fixed seats for companions.
The circle overhang kicks in at row L, the top of the stage is lost from around row P or Q.
Down the sides of the stalls near the stage are individual slips. Raised platforms containing 6 movable chairs. SG6 and 23 are nearest the stage and very close indeed. SG1 an 18 are furthest away and lose only the nearest top corner of the stage where acoustic tiles overhang the top of the slip.
A reader says,
"C8 and C9 in the stalls - bagged a couple of returns due to the snow, as it was sold out.
Production: Sleeping Beauty, January 2013.
Not much rake. The seat in front really was 'in front' - i.e .I was looking directly at the back of someone's head, whereas usually in the stalls you are peering through a gap where people's shoulders meet. The seats in front were positioned same as mine, I had to swivel left and right to see certain parts of the action on stage - not very good considering the £55 price tag per seat.
I would recommend that patrons book the row behind - Row D. This is stepped up on a higher level and provides a clear view of the stage unhindered by people's heads! Same price I believe.
Beautiful production, wouldn't have missed it for the world. But would rather not sit in these seats given the choice!"
Another adds, for "Singin' In The Rain" (July 2021),
"Stalls G8 and G9 - perfect view, good rake, comfy seats and no splash risk in current production :)."
Dress Circle (“First Circle” in this theatre)
Clear views and feels close to the stage. The monkey noted that legroom varies wildly. Row A to around 5ft 8, B to K to 5ft 10, L and M to 5ft 7. The raise between rows and off-set of seats to see between means the view should be fine for most from anywhere. The back rows feel a little distant from the stage, but the overhang of the circle above has little effect on the view.
In row A, the monkey would go at least 2 seats off the aisle so as not to be looking over the side balconies towards the stage.
Slips between the front of the circle and the stage are slotted in behind acoustic panels.SG7 to 15 and 24 to 32 are closest to the stage. Movable backless high stools, thickly padded but of the type found in a bar. Side view losing the top of the stage, but decent value if able to accept the lack of a back. The height gives legroom due to “dangle.”
SG 1 to 6 and 18 to 23 are movable chairs squeezed into a fairly narrow space between the stools and front circle row A. The monkey would go for 1 and 18 for view, but maybe 6 and 23 so as not to have to peer around others sharing the space and to maximise the fairly meagre legroom that may not satisfy those over 5ft 6 or so.
A reader says,
“"I prefer to sit in the first circle instead of the stalls, as being further back makes it easier to see action on all parts of the stage at the same time, which is often important e.g. when two dancers separate and go off and do twirly stuff (that's a highly technical term!) independently, and in ensemble pieces covering the whole stage. With dance I think it's less important to be up close to get a good view of the details of individual performers. Seats there have a decent rake and only the mini-est of midgets will have his view blocked by people in front.
And despite this theatre attracting a noticeably more petite audience than others (plenty of amateur dancers, no doubt) the seats are comfortable for those more suited by nature to the bar than the barre, and have plenty of leg room.”
Upper Circle (“Second Circle” in this theatre)
This feels like it is in four sections – rows A to D in the main block, E to Q behind that. Either side of the main block next to row L and above the entrance doors are small side blocks. Then there are, as in the circle below, two sets of slips between the front of the circle and the stage, again slotted in behind acoustic panels.
There are rails at the end of all aisles but they do not affect views – on the other hand, the circle is high and steep towards the back, so vertigo sufferers will want to sit elsewhere.
Taking a closer look at the sections in order, the view is fine from the front of the circle – it feels closer than the rear circle below, maybe even closer than the rear stalls.
Moving back, things get steep at around row H, though the off-set of seats and the height between rows will help those able to accept the height.
The problem is legroom. Row A is good for those up to around 5ft 8. Behind it, almost all rows are going to be cramped to anyone over 5ft 6. The only exceptions are row Q3 and 31 with nothing in front of them.
As in the circle below, in row A the monkey would go at least 2 seats off the aisle so as not to be looking over the side balconies towards the stage.
Out to the small side blocks from row L, the monkey rather liked them. Angled towards the stage, row L is a little higher, increasing legroom thanks to “dangle room” provided. With nothing in front but a rail and drop, a pretty good deal, and it would probably take them over central row L so as to have nothing in front of it.
Back down at the front, the arrangement of slips is the same as in the circle below. Slotted in between the front of the circle and the stage and behind acoustic panels.
Slips SG8 to 16 and 24 to 32 are closest to the stage. Movable backless high stools, thickly padded but of the type found in a bar. Side view losing the top of the stage, but decent value if able to accept the lack of a back. The height gives legroom due to “dangle.”
SG 1 to 7 and 18 to 23 are movable chairs in a space between the stools and front circle row A. The monkey would go for 1 and 18 for view, but maybe 6 and 23 so as not to have to peer around others sharing the space. A bit more legroom than in the circle below, should be OK for those up to around 5ft 7.
A reader notes that the back row of the upper circle is further away than most top balcony seats in the west end. A VERY distant, though clear view, from up there.
If you book 2 or more productions in a single transaction, the Sadler's Wells / Peacock Theatre multi-buy discount may apply, see www.sadlerswells.com/multibuy for details.
Theatre Royal, Stratford East:
A reader says,
What a lovely old theatre. Keeping the local paintworks in permanent employment producing untold gallons of red paint, the Theatre Royal Stratford sits in the middle of a lot of new buildings, giving little clue of what awaits inside. And inside is a little gem of a theare. Photos of old productions dominate as you would expect, but going into the playhouse itself you find a lovely old theatre, which is tall but at no point is anyone far from the stage, making the performance an intimate one.
We would quite happily come back here to see more shows.
We had seats D1 and D2 in the stalls. Deliberately chosen, as D1 has a clear view of the stage with no seat directly in ahead of it from the front three rows. Ideal for those of a shorter stature.
The first few rows do that odd thing of sloping gently backwards so the rows in front are actually higher than those behind, but the tilt of the seating means that you get a decent view. As I said in my comments about the theatre, it would not be possible to be far from the stage, so a reasonable view should be possible from just about anywhere.
Row A look like a good choice to see a show. There is a good space between seats and stage (handy in ‘Fings’ so some of the performers can flirt with the patrons) and as the seats tilt back a little, neckache should not be an issue.
The Food and Drink:
It is always nice when you get the chance to dine at the theatre. And we enjoyed the fare at the Theatre Royal Stratford East enough to say we’ll come back and use it as a restaurant if we are in the area!
Aside from standard burgers, jacket spuds etc., they feature a small Caribbean menu. I had the Curry Mutton, my wife had the Jerk Chicken and we had a side order of Macaroni Cheese. And it was all delicious, spiced just right and the Mac ‘n’ Cheese was thick enough to slice!
Drinks were courtesy of Blue Moon, Kozel and Addlestones Cloudy Cider. They have a fair selection of bottled drinks, plus enough of a range of draught drinks (though no handpump, unfortunately)
Interval ice-cream is Loseley – enough of a reason to go along in my opinion!"
Another reader says, in May 2016,
"The Government Inspector:" Next to the rather decrepit Stratford Centre, this is a little gem of a theatre. Richly decorated, nicely furbished. B was front row, I believe. Very good legroom and view. The seats are not very wide, however, if neighbours are a bit on the large side it can get squeezed."
The monkey would add that there's also nothing in front of A1 and C1 has space for one leg. Rows slope backwards from the stage from the front row (A or AA) to D, and A and AA are on the same level if in use. The stage height and offsetting of rows do compensate for this, though. Legroom is OK up to 5ft 10 or so, and feet can go under seats in front.
The dress circle has no legroom at all in any seat, so give it a miss if possible if over 5ft 5 or so.
In the upper circle row C has most legroom, then B, then D and E. Row A is cramped if 5ft 5 or over. End seats are comfy as you can turn sideways into the aisle.
The Young Vic Theatre (main auditorium):
Bench seating, but a generous space allowed per person. Using the "In The Round" layout, the monkey noted that legroom is OK in the stalls - unlimited in row A, up to 5ft 10 or so in other rows except the back row, which is raised and the audience puts feet on a rail in front. Here (row D when the monkey went, but changes by production) those up to 6ft should be fine. You get a better view thanks to the extra height, too. The only other note is to try and avoid seats where the rows "turn a corner" as they share legroom with next person along.
Upstairs, two rows. Aisle end barriers and rails at the front don't affect views much. Those up to 5ft 7 should be OK in the front row, but go for the end aisle seats where the theatre turns a corner for an inch more legroom. Back row is cramped in all seats for those over 5ft5 or so. It looks like there's room... until you put the seat down to sit on it...
When in "end stage" rather than the usual "in the round" layout, the downstairs area is split into a central and two side blocks, sometimes with two rows of two seats outside of that in the front corner, angled to the stage. All seats are tiered, with steps between. The front section runs from row A to C, with a wider aisle in front of D and a rail in front of the side block row E seats.
Side block rows A to CC are worth skipping at top price, as they have a side view and may miss action at the corners. The very cheap extra seats provide exactly what you pay for - up to 75% view, again depending on how the production is staged.
Row H is the dividing line across the entire width of the stalls. That gives 2 seats on the two centre aisles unlimited legroom. Elsewhere in the area, legroom is adequate to 5ft 9 or so, more in the pairs of "extra" seats in the corner, which are raised benches allowing "dangle" space.
Behind row H, from J back to M the rows rise steeply, decent views. Row M is just below the level of the first balcony. Again, legroom is pretty reasonable, as in rows ahead, and the view is fine everywhere.
The first balcony itself is unchanged, except that only the rows behind the main seating block, plus part of the rows at the side are used.
The Menier Chocolate Factory:
A reader says, in September 2017: "A 16 in September 2017 (Adrian Mole, The Musical). A great seat in the front row of the stalls. New patrons to this theatre should be advised seating is in the form of benches, which are very comfortable. As it was at the front there was plenty of leg room and the view of the stage was totally unhindered. The cost of the seat was £45, but be aware if you book early enough or for a preview standard seats as these are called are considerably cheaper. Having experienced the front row in this theatre I would not sit anywhere else."
The monkey notes this refers to the standard "end on" layout, and that this venue has many other variations as required.
For "Barnum" in December 2017, seating is "in the round," and a reader says,
"Seat D 71, which was in the back row (Barnum). However, each block was only 4 deep. I purchased the seat at the preview price, which meant it was slightly reduced and I would certainly do that again. For those that do not Know the Menier Chocolate Factory, the seats are not individual, but part of a bench. From my seat I had a very clear view of the stage, which for this production was in the centre. Leg Room is adequate, but I think an aisle seat is better. It is a small theatre and for this production, everybody is very close to the action."
And finally.... just for fun...
Chichester Festival Theatre... A reader commented, for "Gypsy" in 2014, "We were in N25 and 26. The new seats were very plush and very comfortable. We were almost straight on looking at the stage. I have to say we felt somewhat distant from the action and this impacted on our feelings for the show." just in case anyone is interested!