My Top London Theatre Tips

Thursday, August 28, 2014 1

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am going to New York in September and I am very excited, because I am planning on seeing something on Broadway for the first time ever! I have been to New York before and I have even been to the theatre in New York before (I was very lucky to see Zachary Quinto in Angels in America a few years back) but never Broadway, so I am really looking forward to it.

The problem is that shows on Broadway seem prohibitively expensive in a way that theatre in London does not. Now, I know London theatre and where to get my tickets from that won’t charge me extortionate booking fees and what deals there are so I very rarely pay anything more than £30 and often closer to £10. Which is good, because the amount of theatre I see would soon bankrupt me if it was to move to NYC. Maybe it’s because I don’t know my way around it, but google is certainly falling to unveil anything like what we have here in London.

So in the spirit of helpfulness for anyone that feels similarly lost in the London Theatre scene, here are my:

Top Tips for Cheaper Theatre Tickets:

  • Avoid Ticketmaster. If you can book your tickets directly from the theatre box office or the theatre website, do it! They are less likely to add fees on and more likely to have a greater seat selection. If they don’t sell the tickets themselves the ticket provider to which the theatre links you to is normally (but not always) the best one. If in doubt, shop around, often the same tickets are priced slightly differently depending on where they are being sold, so it’s worth a little research to find the best deal.
  • Bookmark Theatremonkey.  Theatremonkey will be your friend and faithful companion and guide you through some very difficult decisions. It has a detailed guide for each West End theatre that includes seats opinions and highlight seats that are especially terrible or a great value for the price. It’s really invaluable for when you are trying to decide which nosebleed seat to go for and exactly what ‘restricted view’ means. I’ve got some great bargains such as heavily discounted rare stalls seats based on it’s recommendations and always check if when going to a new theatre. It’s opinions are constantly updated based on new productions.
  • Look into day seats. Many theatres have super cheap tickets available on the day. They are often limited, and especially for sold out shows there may be a queue from very early in the morning (in some cases people have been known to camp in front of the theatre, but I do not recommend that) but if the show is not sold out, picking up a day ticket can be a pain free experience, especially on a week day. This is a great resource (I told you theatremonkey is fantastic) My favourite day seats are those is the National Theatre, because there are lots available, especially if you are willing to stand, and I have very fond memories of seeing The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime for only £5.
  • Time Out Theatre Offers: the number of plays I’ve seen with a Time Out voucher is bordering on ridiculous, these are often for fringe shows or west end shows that are not selling particularly well. So if you are looking for Book of Mormon it’s unlikely to pop up on there, but there are consistently great offers and it’s always worth having a look if you fancy seeing something but are not too fussed on what. A couple of times recently I’ve booked tickets only for Time Out to do an offer the day after I’ve booked them, so sometimes it’s worth waiting it out.
  • Special Schemes: There are so many cheap schemes out there, especially for young people that they probably deserve their own post, but these are my favourite and are available to everyone (if you are quick enough with the refresh button and unlike day seats can be purchased from the comfort of your home)
    1. Donmar’s Barclay’s Front Row Scheme: I’ve already talked about this, because I love it. Every Monday front row tickets go on sale for £10. In the last couple of years I’ve seen almost everything staged at the Donmar because of this scheme. Now I admit it can be stressful when unsuccessful, until you try again the following week. And if it looks to be sold out in 10 seconds, don’t despair, but keep refreshing for up to 10 minutes, as often tickets become available later as people release them from their baskets.
    2. Royal Court’s £10 Mondays: I’ve only done this once, as discussed here, but looking forward to trying it again soon.
    3. The National Theatre’s Travelex partnership that means that half the tickets for selected shows are only £15. I managed to get a Travelex ticket for Medea, which I am looking forward to seeing next week.
  • Bonus Tip: I asked my friend (and theatre going companion) for a tip and she was wonderful and offered slightly more than one, so you get 3 for the price of 1.
    1. Worth checking if your local theatre has a scheme for residents and those who work nearby”
    2. For Opera and Ballet fans: “Royal Opera House has 67 day tickets for various prices”
    3. if you can afford it, Young Vic’s Season Saver” where you get three top price tickets for the price of two, the biggest problem is trying to pick only 3 shows per season..

That’s it for now, please let me know if I’ve missed your favourite tip and if you can help me with my Broadway dilemma!

The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2

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nother day, another immersive show… I ‘experienced’ (seeing doesn’t seem quite the right word, especially since a good part of it was in absolute darkness) Shunt’s The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face. A couple of years ago Shunt’s The Architects was perhaps my first immersive experience and I didn’t much like it, though I think that if I saw it now, I’d appreciate it a lot more. At the time I expected more of a point to my theatre, I also wasn’t used to all the nudity that is remarkably prevalent in immersive performances.

I went to The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face, partly because I liked the sound of the venue, (the Jetty at Greenwich, rather excitingly the easiest way to get to it is by boat or by air) with its promise of pop up food and drink as well as post show live music, partly because tickets only cost £10. The performance itself is billed as taking 45 minutes, though I think it took us just over half an hour from start to finish, so the additions of food, drink and entertainment are very welcome if you want to make a night of it. I’d recommend dressing warmly (where has the summer gone?) even though blankets are provided and nabbing one of the hammocks.

On the whole I really enjoyed the experience, it’s perfect if you want to dip your toes into immersive theatre and see if you like it, as it’s over pretty quickly if you don’t. I did like it, so my main complaint is that I greedily would have liked it to be a bit grander, with more rooms to explore. The concept is in the style of a promenade performance, every ten minutes a group of about a dozen or so people enter a series of rooms, cleverly build within old shipping containers and are faced with different bizarre scenarios in each room. It’s creepy and funny and better if you just go with it, don’t try to make any sense of it and have fun. The audience interaction is not extensive and in fact my favourite room was one with only a disembodied voice in it. A final warning, the performers wear frankly terrifying masks.

Brunch – Berners Tavern

Sunday, August 17, 2014 0

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imeout released its Top 100 Restaurants in London this week, and I am disappointed to reveal that I have only been to about 10 of these. This felt like a challenge (I’ve got a year presumably till they release a new list, so going to two a week is totally doable, right?) for all of five minutes, before I reconsidered, much to my bank balance’s relief. But still, I love a good list, the time I’ve wasted following links to ‘related’ articles with titles like ’10 things not to do on the Tube’ or ‘top 50 music videos hair styles’ or ‘5 easy salad lunches’ (these in particular, always disappoint) is frightening.

This is all to say that despite being a regular brunch-er… brunch-ee? I don’t have a go to brunch place and spent some time frantically googling “top brunches in London”, “best breakfasts in London’ etc, when my parents said they were coming to visit today. Due to unfortunate transport issues, their visit has been postponed and all I’ve got is a browser history full of brunch.

My most recent brunch was to Berners Tavern in the London Edition, which incidentally scored rather high on Time Out’s before mentioned top restaurant list and I am sure deservedly so, though I wouldn’t have guessed it judging by the brunch alone. It’s undoubtedly a beautiful space, with a high ornate ceiling, crystal chandeliers and paintings of all shapes and sizes adorning the entirety of its walls. It’s a great place to go to with a group, as it’s got fantastic booths and round tables which make it easy for conversation to flow. So I give it a high score for ambience and it’s all good until we get to the food, which was frankly disappointing. I ordered the avocado on toast with poached eggs, as the vegetarian options were rather limited and this is a simple dish that I’ve ordered elsewhere and rather enjoy. I had high hopes as the simple dishes are usually a standout at great restaurants, but this was barely average. It was exactly as per description, poached eggs and avocado, with no flavour whatsoever, the avocado was unseasoned and the whole dish was bland and uninspiring. I had poached eggs and avocado on corn bread at The Diner(!) a few weeks ago that was vastly superior. The ‘fresh’ pink grapefruit juice almost certainly came from a carton or at least tasted like it did and my friend’s latte was not a latte at all but coffee with a splash of milk. I am sure that the dinner the Berners is fantastic, though at that price point I am unlikely to try it soon, but I will certainly not be returning for brunch.

Can think of a few places that would go on my list, so will hopefully be sharing that soon.

Arthur Miller: The Crucible

Monday, August 11, 2014 1

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n what seems to have become a theme, a shamefully clueless theme, I once again went to the theatre with little prior knowledge of the source material. When it comes to Miller, I’ve only read A View from the Bridge, when it comes to the Crucible, I only had a vague idea of Salem witch trial and McCartyist allegory.

The Crucible is epic, in the true sense of the word, and I don’t just mean long, though it stretches over three and a half hours, which is no mean feat. The story’s premise is simple, a woman scorned sees and opportunity and ceases it. In fact the motivation felt almost too simple and it took me a while to accept that in the first half of the play. However as things moved beyond any individual’s intention and build to a self propelling avalanche far beyond what any of its originators expected, or were able to stop, even of they wished it, this no longer mattered. Perhaps it even strengthened the horror of the proceedings. From man made to something far beyond that, something, dare we say it, supernatural. For nothing else could explain how the 1:45 minutes long second half flew by so quickly. The first part dragged for me a bit towards the end, little plot helped along by powerful light and sound effects. I have to mention the use of sound, which was incredible. Something akin to the breath of a sleeping dragon (I swear, this is not an intentional Hobbit reference) was always present and helped build a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. In the second half everything came together for me (my friend felt the opposite, interestingly) in an emotionally impactful way.

Some people were clearly there for Richard Armitage aka the sexy dwarf king from the Hobbit, and he was excellent, when I eventually got used to his voice (it’s deep, like seriously deep) but this felt like an ensemble piece to me, withs stand out performances by Anna Madeley’s Elizabeth Proctor and newcomer Samantha Colley as Abigail Williams.

This summer seems to be all about Miller as up the road from the Old Vic, a startlingly modern version of A View from the Bridge played earlier in the summer.

It’s the first time I’ve seen it on stage, though I did study it in school. It’s amazing how some things stick to your mind, like ‘walking wavy’ and the ‘give me my name’ speech at the end. There were school kids in the audience and hearing their reaction was wonderful, wish we could have seen it performed when I was studying it.

As for the play itself, it was visually stunning, but lacked heart for me, and in this Old v Young, the Crucible wins it for me.