It's one thing to know what show you're going to see, but where you sit in the theatre can end up affecting your experience dramatically.
Different sections offer drastically different views, so it's important to brush up on your theatre knowledge and get familiar with each section individually to fit your needs. Which are usually the cheapest, which might be the best for children, and which will give you a good view no matter what?
Each theatre is different, but on the whole there are no ‘bad seats’.
All theatres have a Stalls section, most have one or two Circles (usually labelled Circle and Upper Circle or Grand Circle, and sometimes called Balcony. These seats are a tier up from the Stalls and look over onto the stage. Most theatres also have Boxes which are individual sections of seating to the side of the stage (usually 2-4 seats but this varies depending on the theatre you’re in).
Some tickets are labelled ‘restricted view’ and are therefore sold at a cheaper price, but don’t write these off, because sometimes all this really means is that there might be a safety rail in the way, or the corner of one side might not be clear.
The Stalls seats are on the ground, and pretty much everywhere you sit here will give you a good view, even from far back. The only time you may have a restricted view in the Stalls is if the Circle overhangs, but generally this will only cover the top of the stage which is very rarely seen.
Sitting far over to one side shouldn’t affect your view either, and unless you happen to have an incredibly tall person in front of you, everywhere in the Stalls will provide a great view. Sitting in the front row is great – sometimes you might find you have to look up at what’s going on on-stage, but it’s worth it to be that close to the front, and a lot of shows sell cheaper tickets for the front row.
Circles, sometimes referred to as the Mezzanine are similar to the Stalls in that pretty much everywhere you sit will give you a great view, that is almost always unobstructed.
In the front few rows of the Circle there might be a safety rail in front of you, but on the whole, this shouldn’t cause you too much of a problem as once the show starts you will find a way to sit that will give you the best view of the stage, and the show itself will distract you so much that you won’t even notice.
Sitting far over to the side in the Circle might restrict your view a little more than if you were in the Stalls, but again this depends on the theatre individually (the theatre will warn you about your view before you buy the tickets if there is a chance you won’t be able to see any certain part of the stage so don’t worry).
Now seats at the front of the Circle can be a little pricey, but by the third row you can usually find some pretty cheap seats, and it's always worth keeping your eye on the prices as a couple front row seats may suddenly drop close to the night of.
Some theatres have a further ‘tier’ above the Circle, usually called Upper Circle, Dress Circle, Grand Circle or Balcony. This again means that you will see the stage from higher up, but looking down on the stage really causes no problems at all.
Sitting further back in the Circles can sometimes mean that you can’t quite make out people’s features perfectly, but these seats are usually the cheapest so if you’re looking to see a show on a budget these seats are best for you.
Most theatres have boxes to the side of the stage. Sitting here gives you that little bit more privacy and takes you away from the distraction of other audience members talking or eating. However, these seats are to the side so can sometimes restrict how much of certain sides of the stage you can see.
Traditionally, these boxes were always seen as the best seats (commonly used for the Royal Family), partly because they were separate, but mainly because this is where the sound is most clear, so depending on the type of show you’re seeing, these might actually be very good seats for you!