Review: London theatre seat guides pros and cons
You want the best seats for your money, right? But what are the pros and cons of seat review sites?
There are two main sites that cover London theatre: SeatPlan.com and TheatreMonkey.com.
What is it?
The site invites punters to upload reviews of seats and also pictures of the view*.
The seating plan is then colour coded according to how well or otherwise seats have been reviewed.
You can also buy tickets through the site and they invite reviews from the audience for current productions including a rating out of 5.
The site covers the main West End Theatres and it looks like between 50-80% of seats in each theatre has been reviewed.
The site is well laid out and the seating plans are clear and easy to understand. You can see at a glance where the best-reviewed seats are and reviewers rate on comfort, view and legroom.
Many of the seats have only one review so you are only getting one opinion rather than an aggregated score.
While breaking up the review into three key areas is definitely a plus, there is no way to allow for things such as personal preference, the height of the reviewer or staging for particular productions.
For example, the cheap seats at the front of the Lyttelton get you close to the stage but the seat rows aren't offset so if you are short or medium height and have a tall person sat in the seat in front, you will be peering around someone's head.
There are also very similar seats next to each other that are given very different ratings for no other reason than one person found the discomfort more bearable than another.
While the main West End theatres are covered there are some notable exceptions such as the Donmar Warehouse and Trafalgar Studios.
The plans also don't allow for changes in staging. While most of the main theatres keep the same seating, not all do. For example, Quiz at the Noel Coward has on stage seating which isn't covered.
Clear and easy to use but check out several different seats in the same row/same area of the theatre to get a general feel and perhaps check with the official theatre websites to see if there have been any changes to the seating plans to accommodate particular staging.
A guide to the best value seats at more than 60 theatres and music venues with colour coded seat plans showing the best value seats and another plan showing seat with potential problems such as restricted view or lack of space.
Information is compiled via audience feedback.
You can also buy tickets through the site and it offers a guide to matinee performances, day seats and other West End theatre tips plus comprehensive ticket information and audience reviews.
Offers two seating plans one colour coded by price, another by value but with the acknowledgement that there are different levels of tolerance and budget.
Lots of useful information about things such as day seats, rush seat and ticket deals.
In fact, TheatreMonkey is the go-to place for day seat information as it is often hard to find on the theatres own websites.
It compiles tweets from those queueing so you can gauge what time people arrived.
The number of theatres covered is far greater than Seat Plan and the site is also updated to include changes to the usual seating plans, for example, the on-stage seating for Quiz is covered.
The website looks awful, cluttered and cheap, and it's difficult to navigate.
If you can find your way around it is a wealth of information beyond just the best value seats.
TheatreMonkey needs SeatPlan's polish and SeatPlan needs TheatreMonkey's breadth of coverage. If you could somehow combine both you'd have a really useful site.
Picture credits: Green seats by Thomas Hawk and Red seats by Brian Rosengrant and used under a creative commons license.
* Often sets are subject to copyright and photography isn't allowed even at the curtain call.