Seat prices are rising in the West End and the bigger theatres. It is inevitable, perhaps, but do you get value for money in the ‘cheaper options’?
I went along to two large-scale musical revivals last week to find out. For each, I purchased a ticket of roughly the same value, and you can read on below to find out what I thought.
These are not reviews of the cast performances or the show in general – simply a reflection on what a significant amount of money will buy you in a big venue in London.
As a theatre critic, I am often in a privileged position to enjoy the more expensive tickets, but I do also choose to spend my money on shows, and reserve the right to call them out if I feel they are letting their audience down.
Show and venue:
Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre.
Stalls DD 23, ticket value £55.
Restriction due to overhang. This is in the ‘extra block’ of seats created where the stage is usually situated. There are stalls seats (4 rows) and upper level seats.
A slight missing out of parts of the immersive action, as this show is staged in the middle of the space.
No view at all of the neon signs designed to give atmosphere to the show, which have been described pre-PN as ‘stunning’ and ‘as if you are in New York’.
You are ‘close to the action’ from any seat, it is true, but I wouldn’t expect to head to a show and have a major selling point from the publicity and programme made invisible.
These seats are incredibly disappointing and in my opinion, far too expensive for the view. I don’t want to support a favourite venue and a favourite show and leave feeling …
How I felt:
Frustrated and overcharged. The restriction should be clearly spelt out, and my advice would be to skip these seats and look elsewhere.
The show is great, but I felt I only saw half of the design as intended, and the view could not be improved by leaning forward.
I feel that, for a theatre that prides itself on its architectural design generally not adding restricted views, the Bridge has made a bad choice here.
Here’s a snapshot of the bows at the end, from our seats. I believe all the signs light up at this point, but I wouldn’t know!
The full stage before we went to our seats:
A production photo (by Manual Harlan):
What we saw (a different angle, but you get the idea):
I wrote to the Bridge Theatre:
We booked for the evening performance of Guys and Dolls on 8 March. The tickets were purchased through TodayTix (I am also raising the same issue with them) and were in Stalls DD 22 and 23, what I now understand to be ‘the extra section’ .
Although I am a freelance theatre critic, I don’t get the opportunity to review at your venue and instead choose to support you by purchasing tickets. The venue has always been known for no restrictions on views, a rarity in the West End at least, so it is a definite favourite of mine.
However, with ‘restriction due to overhang’ I expected perhaps a slight missing of the immersive action of Guys and Dolls. Given the publicity, the production photos, and the front of the programme all emphasing the ‘Hotbox’ etc, I did not expect a view equivalent to missing half the show as designed, particularly the neon signs and lighting.
I’ve seen all this described as ‘stunning’, ‘puts you right in New York’, etc etc. I wouldn’t know, as I spent my money (£51 per ticket through TT, which I believe are £55 tickets after press night) on tickets which left me frustrated, disappointed and frankly angry.
I am going to be writing in my ‘cheap seats’ series about the quality of these seats this week, and have been advised by a number of people now to make a formal complaint about how the tickets were described.
This extra block was set up as it is by your venue’s choice. I understand that the three rows in front are more expensive, but how can this restriction be justified?
I have no issue with the quality of the show. The performance and the band are brilliant, and the stage crew are to be applauded. But these seats are shocking, and you should be honest about how much you miss.
Thank you for your email and for feedbacking to us regarding your seats.
Owing to the nature of the show the seats you booked are advertised as restricted view due to the overhang and were advertised as so and priced accordingly when compared to other seats in the section of the Stalls that you booked. We also shared this information with all third party ticket agents that sell tickets for the show in order for those wishing to purchase tickets are able to make an informed decision when deciding which tickets to book.
However, I would still like to thank you for feeding back to us how severe the view restriction is as we are still in Previews and have not received much feedback regarding seating views for this production. I have therefore passed your feedback on to our Head of Sales and requested that we review the restriction wording for the seats in row DD.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to reach out of us [sic] regarding your experience.
Show and venue:
Oklahoma at the Wyndham’s.
Grand Circle C 20, ticket value £55.
Sold with no restriction.
A decent view, if a little high up. I sit in the top level of theatres in the West End a lot.
I counted five moments where the action took place on the part of the stage that sticks out over the band.
These are solved by leaning forward for a moment. Not a problem. ‘Ado Annie’ goes into the front stalls during her first song but you can figure out what’s going on.
There is a video wall used during one specific song. There was a slight restriction on seeing the top of the screen which was a shame, but didn’t unduly bother me.
However, I think it might be noted as a ‘slight’ restriction and audiences may note that in the rear part of the grand circle this restriction will be greater.
How I felt:
These seats are priced quite high for the third tier of seats, but they are generally OK. The show wasn’t necessarily for me, but I didn’t feel I missed out on much in terms of staging and design.
The video wall is the one to flag as a slight issue it is so integral to how that scene is presented.
Here’s a snapshot of the bows:
Leaning forward before the show started:
A production photo (by Marc Brenner):
What was visible from our seats (because of the lines of bunting at the top of the proscenium, and not possible to remedy by leaning forward):
I hope this has been useful. I will continue this series as and when opportunities come about. My next planned post will be on Shirley Valentine.