Things I Learned About Watching Theatre

I learned a lot during the 20 shows I watched whilst in London.  Personally, these are life lessons that I wish could be passed on to every other person in the world – especially people who attend theatre here.  Some are good, some are bad, but they all are a part of theatre-going-life.

1) Good Reviews do not necessarily mean Good Theatre.  (The same is true of the reverse – Bad Reviews do not necessarily mean Bad Theatre, but let’s get on with this lesson).  I watched a certain show (rhymes with “Pecret Slapture”) that had gotten good reviews, but was not a good show.  Jesus-Imagery aside, it was bland and the only exciting thing about the show was that part of the set was on a conveyor belt.  Theatre is subjective – and some of it is more subjective than others…

2) The Post in your way will only bother you if you let it.  When I watched “The Goat” I sat behind a huge post that was so big my arms would not be able to wrap around it.  I ended up leaning to the left to get a clear view of the stage.  Once the show started the post was out of my mind completely.  I remember how amazing Jonathan Pryce was, how well the show was done, how I didn’t really care for the son – but I don’t remember the post getting in the way.  Some people fixate on the thing in front of them, while others look around it and enjoy.

3) I hate standing for a show.  People always talk to me about getting standing tickets (especially for shows at the Globe Theatre), but I hate standing.  I know this because I stood during “Democracy”, at the back of the theatre for the whole show and I was fidgety the entire time.  Now, I can stand for a rock concert, but not a theatre show – I want to start pacing or moving around.  Some people like standing, but until you do it yourself you’ll never really know.

4) Give yourself enough time to find the damn theatre.  I got lost on my way to “Stones In His Pockets”.  Twice.  I managed to find the theatre to buy my ticket, then I stuck around in the area for lunch (since it had taken me so long to find the theatre in the first place).  On my attempt to find the theatre to actually see the show, I got lost again.  Thankfully I was prepared and gave myself more than enough time.  I blame everything on London’s half-hazard placement of streets.

5) Do yourself a favour and buy the synopsis, especially for the ballet.  I went to “Giselle” by the Royal Ballet and thought ‘hey, I pretty much know this plot, so I’ll save some money and not buy the programme’.  This was a mistake which I quickly rectified at intermission.  Knowing what’s going on can help improve your experience – drastically.  Especially when you’re all ‘which character is that dancing ponce?’

6) There is such a thing as being seated too high up.  For “All’s Well That Ends Well” my ticket cost 16 Pounds and was in the top balcony.  When actors came up to the front of the stage I had to literally look down on the top of their heads.  Of course, considering the price of my ticket, I couldn’t really complain.

7) Be aware of sight lines – especially for obstructed views.  I can’t remember if the theatre warned me that my seat for “When Harry Met Sally” was a semi-obstructed view, but I don’t think they did (bad theatre!).  I got a cheap ticket the night of so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was at least expecting to see the stage left corner of the theatre.  If you buy an obstructed view seat be prepared to lose part of the stage.  Most theatres will tell you what the obstruction is and how it will affect your view, and usually it won’t be much.  And seriously, if the view was total crap they shouldn’t be selling the seats in the first place.

8) There are some shows where seating doesn’t matter.  When I saw Cirque du Soliel’s “Dralion” my friend and I sat in Row X of the Third Balcony.  Say what you will, those seats were freaking amazing!  The layout of the stage and the layout of the theatre were perfect for a show where people jump and fly around. 

9) People can be Awesome.  My first standing-ticket experience was supposed to be “The Pillowman”.  It was 4 Pounds for a standing ticket and there was an iron rail my friend and I could lean on (that wasn’t very comfortable, but was better than a no-rail “Democracy” standing ticket).  Just before the show the woman in front of us said that her friends weren’t coming, so we could sit in their seats.  My friend and I happily sat down (as other friends watched with jealousy).  When the usher told us that we did not have tickets for that seat so we had to move, the lady told him that she had the tickets and we were staying. 

10) Just get out and see theatre.  Go with the flow and prepare to enjoy yourselves.  That way even if the show’s crap (*coughsecretrapturecough*) you’ll have a fun story (or rant) to share with others.

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