Theater Geek: London’s West End

The West End is Europe’s version of Broadway and it lives up to the hype. When someone comes to London, a trip is not complete without a show and a pre-theatre dining experience. So this fat girl’s going to help you plan a perfect trip to the theater with some easy tips and expectations from seat size and where and when to buy your ticket.

Buying Tickets

Do your research because there’s nothing worse than not being able to get tickets to a show you really want to see. Don’t care what show you see and on a budget? If you’re okay booking last-minute theatre tickets visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. It normally offers half-price tickets on the day of the show and up to a week in advance. So in-between taking in the sights make sure to stop by and see which tickets are available. A general rule of thumb is, the longer the show’s been running the better chance of you getting last-minute tickets, think Wicked and Lion King.

If you have your hopes set on a particular show make sure to research the ticket process. Some offer raffles, others are booked months in advance, looking at you Cursed Child and Hamilton. However, you should be able to get decent seats a month out. I always look at the show’s website and then do a Google search on ticket prices to compare. This fat girl prefers to buy directly from the theater website.

Seat Sizes

Just like airplanes, you get what you pay for. Except for the rare exception of raffle and or standby the cheaper the seat the higher the chance you will be uncomfortable.  If you are tall and fat, take note of the age of the theatre as sometimes it’s the leg space that causes the issue. If it’s been 10+ years since a theatre has had any updates or renovations, I can almost guarantee you’ll be cramped.

One of the most uncomfortable theatre experiences I had was at Victoria Palace Theatre (now home to Hamilton and with a multi-million-pound renovation) about 4 years ago when I saw Billy Elliot. I was in the last row way at the top. Surprisingly the width wasn’t the biggest issue it was the leg space. I was in so much pain as my knees dug into the seat in front of me. That combined that with the tight fit of the seat equaled me being very aware of every minute of the show and not in a good way. At that point though, that theatre hadn’t updated it seats in a long time.

When I went just this past January, I sat in the orchestra but the seats were completely different due to the recent update. My experiences at Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre both in upper dress circle and orchestra was fairly comfortable as well. Again, that theater has been renovated within the last few years.

My advice is if you can afford it try to sit in the stalls or dress circle. It really is much more comfortable. Especially if you’re tall and fat. When in doubt, try to book an aisle seat. That way you’ll at least have a bit more space from the aisle “air”.  The general rule is the older the theatre and the cheaper the seats, the more tightly packed they are together.

Cost Breakdown

Tickets range from five pounds to hundreds of pounds depending on the show and venue. The Globe Theatre often offers £5 tickets but just like in Shakespearean times expect to stand for the duration of the 2-3 hour play. I’d say from experience, on average I’ve bought Upper Dress Circle and Dress Circle seats for between £20-£50. For Stall seats, expect to pay £97-£150 depending on the show.

Every person has a limit they are happy spending. As a theatre lover and someone who loves to see the details of costumes and the facial expressions when I can, I’ll spend the money to be as close as possible. If I just want the experience then I opt for Dress/Royal Circle.

Where To Sit

Let me breakdown the seating structure of the West End. It’s slightly different from Broadway.

Stalls: The stalls, also known as the Orchestra are the ground level seating. These are in general considered to house a majority of the best seats in the theatre. They’re also the most expensive.

Dress/Royal Circle: These are a level above the stalls and if you can afford it, the first rows are considered the best seats when you want to get the full experience of the show. If a show has big dance number and massive chorus movements, this is the place for you. Seats range in price from being the most expensive to mid-range.

cri_seating_imgImage via Criterion Theater

Upper Circle: This is the floor above the Dress/Royal Circle and seats tend to be a bit more cramped and if you are afraid of heights… don’t do it. Book the floor below. Often the cheapest prices in tickets are for this section of the theatre.

Boxes: If you choose this section, be careful when booking as some will have restricted viewing. So make sure to confirm where in the theatre the box sits.

What The Eff is Restricted View?

Some of the best-priced tickets I’ve had have been restricted view tickets. This is exactly how it sounds. Normally a pillar blocks you or a set piece causes obstruction of the stage.  So if you don’t mind a little neck bending then this might be your best bet.

Top Tip: If you can figure out where the “Premium” seats are, normally in the middle of the stalls. See where that section ends and book the seats nearby as it often will save you money and you get pretty much the same view.

Pre-Theatre Eats

One of the best parts of the West End, besides the theatre obviously. Are the plethora of pre-theatre eats that make any budget goer eyes swoon. Expect a quick-turnaround as they’re focused on getting you out the door in time for your show. If you paid top dollar for theater tickets, don’t fret. You often get 2-3 courses for less than £15 a person. This is a great way to eat at those fancy AF places without breaking the bank!

Have a look at the area around your theatre and when in doubt TimeOut London always delivers the most up to date pre-theatre options. Some theatres even have partnerships with local restaurants so check out their website as sometimes you can get better deals or a discount on merchandise with proof of dinner receipt.

What To Wear

I remember the days when one would dress up for a big night out to the theatre, nowadays it’s all about comfort. I’ve always made sure to look presentable whether it’s a matinee or not. It also depends on the show as sometimes people will dress up as characters. At Cursed Child I saw people wearing robes and holding wands, it was fantastic!

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Unlike this photo, @hamiltonwestend was a masterpiece. What a privilege to witness an incredible show four rows from the stage. I loved the score so much. I have written many reports and pitches to Burn. Have danced on beaches from Vietnam to Croatia while listening to Non-stop and fell even more in love with Sean as he would sing/rap verbatim every single part of Satisfied. Seeing it in production is something I will never forget. The acting, staging and choreography made an already brilliant thing a masterpiece. Thank you #linmanuelmiranda for this gift. I am so excited to watch this play again in the future at different points of my life and know that I’ll notice something new every time. God, I love the theatre and well done to cast for doing such an incredible job 😍 #hamiltonldn

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Fat Girl Recommended

Overwhelmed or not sure what to see in the West End? Here’s a list of a few of my favourites that are still in the West End.

Hamilton

Matilda

Wicked

Kinky Boots

The Cursed Child

The Play That Goes Wrong

Wicked

Les Miserables

The Book of Mormon

The Woman in Black

Young Frankenstein

Remember, don’t let your size stop you from going to see a show. As my awesome friend Natalie told me “Don’t let fears about taking up too much room ruin your enjoyment of the theatre. The majority of theatre shows make you feel good because of their storylines of inclusivity. So no one should feel excluded from seeing shows, particularly not by their weight.”

westend-attractions-lesmisImage via Telegraph

Have you been to see a show recently in the West End? Comment below with your experience as we want to create a verified Fat-Friendly Theatre Guide to the West End!

 

Amanda Wilkinson

When Amanda is busy running While Fat she can be found running her own Digital Marketing Agency in Bristol, UK. Amanda can also be found reading books on her Bookstagram, drinking Aperol, and dreaming about her next trip.

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