Theatre Views: Where to sit

Looking for advice on the best seats in the house? Here’s my tips for finding a top view at a non-top price in London theatres. Bear in mind that this is just my relatively limited experience and that for expert tips you should take a look at sites such as theatremonkey.com and seatplan.com.

Aldwych Theatre – Currently home to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, the Aldwych Theatre is admittedly short of cheap seats. With dynamic pricing (prices that change as the demand increases or decreases) in full swing large portions of the stalls and dress circle are either top price or premium prices. While seats at the rear of the stalls and dress circle may seem like a good deal, bear in mind that the overhang of the circles above is fairly dramatic in this theatre so you’ll likely end up with a  very letter-boxed view of the stage. Upper circle really is the only spot for a relatively clear view for a lower price, but bear in mind that the front three rows are far from cheap. Owing to the limitations on cheaper seats, I coughed up full price on this one and went for top price but during the preview performances for £57.50.

Donmar Warehouse – This is a controversial venue. Some people love it, some hate it. Some can’t stand the circle, others can’t stand the stalls. Personally, I’m a fan of the circle and while no seat in the entire theatre is particularly comfortable, I can look by the bench-like seating and upright backs. The biggest bargain here is undoubtedly circle Row B at the sides. While there are admittedly better views the further away from the stage you are in this section, you are still incredibly close to the action and often pay half the price that you would to be looking from a spot just around the corner. You can also comfortably lean on the bar in front of you without risking cutting off the view of the person behind you. Views in the gallery below were between £15 and £17.50.

Dorfman Theatre – This is a relatively new theatre to me so I’ve not had much experience at finding bargain spots, and it’s common for the layout to be completely changed to adapt to different productions. However, my one visit was to Row R in the Gallery which was a great place with a  great view for only £21. I’d happily sit here again.

Noel Coward Theatre – The Noel Coward is a nice little theatre in that each level is only small so while there’s quite a bit of overhang at the rear of those levels, it’s never too extreme. There’s a good variation of pricing, but this often varies between levels rather than within them. The best spot to consider is the side circle where there’s a relatively clear view but at a significantly lower price than the seats around them. Balcony and slips are often very attractively priced too, but bear in mind that in here you really do get what you pay for and you’re either going to be very high or very uncomfortable for the price. On my two trips I opted for a £52.25 ticket in the stalls for A Christmas Carol and a £10 ticket (a promo price only) at the rear of the dress circle for Photograph 51.

Olivier Theatre – There’s no masking my love of the Olivier Theatre; there’s not a single bad view in the entire place. There are a good range of prices and the only downside to the more distant views is that sound can be a bit of an issue. For the best value, go for the side stalls (the slightly raise seats either side of the auditorium) where you’re close to the action and without any risk of heads in the way. Circle is a good choice if side stalls are taken or priced higher but try and stay as central as possible. Pictures of my views are all below, and I’ve never paid more than £25 for the seats.

Palace Theatre – Not one of the smallest theatres in London but it is one of the more intimate because of the balcony tier adding extra capacity above the upper circle. I’ve only ever sat in the balcony once and avoid it like the plague now. My second trip was in row BB of the stalls which gave a great overall view of the stage (which wasn’t too high).

Prince of Wales Theatre – One of the Delfont Mackintosh estate, this has been renovated to a very high standard and benefits from the two level design that often means plenty more seats with a  good view. With Book of Mormon currently occupying it, the trick is to buy early as soon as the booking period goes on sale to get the cheaper seats before they rise in price. Cheapest seats are situated in the rear corners of the stalls and circle. While I opted for the stalls, there was quite a bit of letter-boxing and a very poor rake, so I’d probably go for the circle if I were to visit again. Considering the staggering prices at play here, my £47.50 for the seat was very respectable.

Victoria Palace Theatre – This theatre is now being renovated. For Billy Elliot, the best deals were in the front side stalls where seats were often discounted for the high stage and side views, which both made little difference to the top price seats. For the performance I visited I paid £50.70 for the seat, but on off peak performances the same seat was £20.