The West End boasts some of the best hotels in the world, some of the very best restaurants in the world and the very best theatres too.
From the London Palladium in the north west of Theatreland, to the Royal Opera House in the south east, beautiful theatres with ornate decorations and plush seating play host to smash hit plays, West End musicals and grand operas throughout the year.
But only one in five visitors to London will take time out of their visit to experience a West End performance. The rest will never know the delights that wait for them beyond the flunkies and the foyer doors.
So what do you need to do to make sure that the next time you are in London that you don’t miss out on such a fabulous opportunity?
It is not true to say that all theatres are sold out months in advance any more. But some of the top shows, especially at the weekends will be and, even if they are not sold out, the best seats will have been snapped up many months beforehand.
If you are coming to London it is worth planning ahead and looking into which shows will be on when you are in town and which shows you would like to see.
Shows tend to start booking around 6 months in advance although some of the big musicals are already booking well into 2016 (as I write in May 2015).
So if you are planning an autumn visit then I would start looking in spring. In fact it can be a good idea to do this when you book your travel and hotel – especially as you can book theatre, hotel and travel packages to take advantage of discounts on three!
If you can’t plan ahead then your hotel concierge can organise tickets on arrival. They are generally very good at getting tickets! You can tip them if you like but they will get commission from the agent that they are using, so there is no need to worry that they will be out of pocket… they will generally get about 10% of the price that they will charge you.
If you are an independent sort then by all means phone the theatre or use their website, but this can mean spending a fair amount of time researching shows and tickets that you may not want to spend.
Lastly, if you don’t mind going down to Leicester Square, then you can queue up for half price tickets at the half price ticket booth, called TKTS, on the day. Queues are not as bad as they used to be, but queueing in a cald wet leicester Square when you are on your luxury break to London doesn’t sound very… well… luxurious!
Stalls and Dress Circle are the best. You may have romantic ideas about sitting in a box, but 9 times out of 10 the view is worse from there
Ask if the seats have a clear view and try to sit quite central in the row, unless you need easy access. If you do require help with access, you must tell the theatre when booking. They will be able to help but only if they know in advance.
The Performance Night
Arrive early, about 30 minutes. That will give you the chance to enjoy the occasion, buy a programme, order interval drinks (there is no supplement) and go to the loo!
If you do have seats on the end of a row, don’t bother sitting down too early as you will be up and down like a jack in the box as people want to get past you on their way to their central seats: just stay in the bar!
At the end of the show, don’t join the other lemmings in rushing out! Take a minute to enjoy the moment! Look around at the auditorium – London theatres are beautiful pieces of architecture.
At least listen to the orchestra as they play the outgoing music! After all, you’ve paid for it!
And finally what should you see?
My top five to look out for in 2015 are:
Matilda – the musical – at the Cambridge Theatre
Miss Saigon at the Pince Edward
The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s
War Horse at the New London Theatre
Gypsy at the Savoy (or, if you have missed that, Beautiful)