SeatPlan has been online since 2011, and its original aim was to advise theatre patrons which seats are good or bad for particular theatres or productions.
As a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) it also operates as an agency to purchase tickets for London-based productions.
Let’s take a tour of the site:
Here is the homepage. You will note that although SeatPlan started as London-based, it has now branched out to include shows and venues in a number of other cities, and these can be reached by clicking on the city name below the search box.
There is no need to create an account to browse the features on the site. However, if you wish to become a contributor, you can log in via two methods – either by email and password, or by linking your SeatPlan account with Facebook. I found the latter the easiest as I can then operate my SeatPlan account without having to remember seperate login credentials.
Searching for a venue
I searched for the National Theatre, which has three auditoriums, but only two are represented on here (presumably because the Dorfman has flexible staging and seating which can change for each production).
Assessing the seat quality
Once you click on the venue in which you are interested, the first thing you see is a seating plan, with colour-coded seats depending on how they have been reviewed on a five-point scale from poor to good. This is of course a subjective analysis, but a useful one. For the National Theatre’s Olivier, the majority of seats are marked as good, and some have photos to reflect this.
Reviews and photos
Reviews are provided by patrons who have a SeatPlan account, and require the venue, production, date (but not time, which would be useful), area of the theatre (stalls, dress circle, balcony etc), row and number, comment about the seat (legroom, view) and an optional review of the show if you wish.
I utilised this function to add a negative review of the seat I was in to see ‘Chess’ at the ENO Coliseum, but to ensure a positive review of the show itself, so I like the ability to add this; however, capsule reviews displayed on the production page only show the review of the seat itself.
Simply click on ‘add review’ to start this process. If you are not logged in, you will be prompted to do so. All reviews go into a moderation buffer before they are published.
Each photo added to your review – not taken during the show, or without the safety curtain being down – will add 40p to your account. I believe the reviews alone do not add any credit other to assist other patrons.
Searching for a production
You can search for a particular production in the main search box – the results will tell you at which theatre the production is showing, plus how many performances are currently scheduled for booking.
I searched for ‘Tina: The Musical’, which is currently running at the Aldwych Theatre.
You will note that the easiest thing to do from this page is to book for the production. To access reviews of the seats, click on either the name of the theatre, or the details of seat photos and reviews (the links all go to the same place).
The booking process
Let’s explore the ticket booking process. Click on the ‘book now’ button and this takes you into a list of performances, and the familiar promise of tickets available at the lowest price for that performance. From here it is easy to progress into a seat plan to choose the tickets you want to book – but there is no link between this page and the one which details reviews of each seat.
I would recommend having two windows open to best utilise the dual functionality of this site, or, start with the seat plan reviews and utilise the buttons on the side to book your show.
Other useful features
For each venue, there are details of the various sections with general comments (e.g. “the first row could cause neck-ache due to a high stage”), a map and directions to the venue, and some details on accessible seating for patrons with disabilities.
You can also ‘track’ a venue by ticking a box to get email updates about that theatre. You can do the same for a specific show to access the best price deals.
Clicking on the name of a city takes you to a page which lists productions for the next 12 months, and a list of venues.
SeatPlan is a good site with a lot of useful information, but it is worth taking the time to figure out the navigation and shortcuts. There are similar sites out there (for example, TheatreMonkey) but they rely more on the subjective opinion of one person, rather than a collection of viewpoints. Both are equally valid.
SeatPlan is located at https://seatplan.com/.