As an overview, seat rows will be deemed alphabetically and will go backwards (A, B, C and so on). There may even be additional seats at venues such as the Apollo Victoria Theatre, the Dominion Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre that go even further back in the Stalls (ZA, ZB, ZC etc.)
Theatre seating plans can change with each production and this will be dependent on the producers and creatives!
A great example is the Playhouse Theatre - the West End transfer of The Jungle had all the Stalls ripped out and was made to feel like a migrant camp in Calais for an immersive experience between the audience and actors. However, the Stalls seating was put back in for Caroline, or Change which was a more traditional theatre going experience. It really does depend on the production!
This will usually be the lowest level and is located closest to the stage. This can be a great place to watch the performers, connect with them and see choreography such as tap dancing close up. In some venues there may be a gentle incline so the Stalls are not always on the flat. Stalls may also incorporate a centre aisle. It is worth noting that depending on the venue and if you are in the front row you may be looking up.
Dress Circle/Royal Circle
Located one level above the stalls, this will give a bird’s eye view of the set and for musicals with big sets and costumes. The seats will be a similar configuration to the stalls, including a possible centre aisle - however it will always be raked. It is perfect for someone who may be smaller in stature or children who may struggle to see in the stalls.
Upper Circle/Grand Circle
This will be the third tier in the venue and may be steep depending on the venue. If you are not particularly comfortable with heights we would recommend sticking with the Stalls/Dress Circle, one level below. However you will find that this section can be good value for your money!
Seats in these sections can be high up here and these levels try to fit in more patrons so it may be a bit tighter! Due to the protected buildings in the West End, pillars will be more of a feature here which could be in your sight line. If you are prepared to not be as comfortable compared to other options, you may find these sections a good compromise budget wise.
These are usually located above the Stalls, to the side of the Royal/Dress Circle and are situated away from the rest of the audience. The sizes of the boxes are dependent on the venue and not all venues have them on sale because they may be used for storing costumes, sound desks and lighting design! Boxes are often desirable due to the privacy, however as these boxes are located on the side of the auditorium, these will have a side view of the production.
Restricted View (RV) refers to a box office designation of certain seats indicating that the view of the stage may be partially blocked by sets or equipment. This can be anything from:
- Pillars are usually a feature in the older West End venues and will partially block the stage or be completely in your sight line. They also may separate seats in venues such as the Harold Pinter and the Criterion Theatre.
- Sound Desk
- A safety rail will usually be in the front row of the Circles/Balcony for audience safety. For children or anyone of a smaller stature, it may cut off some of the show visually which could interfere with your experience.
- The curvature of the auditorium may cut off the set and you may miss entrances and exits of cast members; this is more prominent in the older venues (Her Majesty’s)
- The overhang will be included in a restricted view capacity and this will usually affect seats mid way in the stalls or circles. This will be a low ceiling from the seating tier above and may cut off the top of the set. Of course this is dependent on the production.
- Side View (SV) will be seated at an angle to the stage - you may miss certain parts of the show.
We would advise you of any restricted view seating prior to purchase, during the basket stage. This will usually consist of an *RV* label next to the seat selection.
Traditionally theatres will be in a proscenium arch, the audience all sit facing the same way. This will be at venues such as the Savoy Theatre and the Shaftesbury Theatre, which tend to use big sets.
In the round involves the audience sitting around the stage on all sides, and the performers enter and exit through the audience on walkways. In the round staging can provide an intimate atmosphere and fully immerse the audience in the play. A famous example of this is the Globe Theatre.
A traverse stage is long and narrow with the audience sitting on either side, like a catwalk. As with theatre in the round, the audience can see each other, which helps to remind them that they are at the theatre and immerse them in the action on stage. It is not used that often but will be popular with contemporary plays such as Yerma at the Young Vic and In The Heights.
A thrust stage sticks out into the audience, who sit on three sides. Like proscenium arch and end-on staging, there is a back wall that can be used for hanging backdrops and large scenery.