Day seating is a very popular thing in the West End. It’s a way to get cheap tickets for popular shows that may already be sold out. It’s something that very much hit the West End with Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. Wicked everywhere else in the world has a ticket lottery, but the manager of the Apollo Victoria made the choice of day seats because the theatre is between two main roads and lottery hopefuls would inevitably get run over in the process of waiting to see if they’d won.
So, the way day seating works (for those not in the know) is basically you show up on the day when the box office opens and pick up your discounted tickets. Usually it’s a maximum of two per person and most shows price them at £20/£25, which is a huge saving when you consider some shows are charging up to £75 for tickets now! Much of the time the day seats are situated on the front row.
Unsuprisingly, though, day seating has evolved to have its own etiquette. It’s become more like “day queueing” as you need to turn up before the box office opens and join a queue in order to get your tickets. Wicked had a notable day queue that went on for almost a week, over Christmas. That was for Idina Menzel’s last show in London in 2006, when some dedicated fans camped in order to secure those front row seats.
I asked my Twitter followers what their top do’s and don’ts were for the day queue, and here’s what we came up with.
1) Do your research.
There is no point turning up at 5am if you don’t have to. Only Wicked really has a day queue that starts that early. I know back when Sister Act opened I was able to pick up day seats at almost three o’clock, and it was a similar story with Little Shop of Horrors when it ran at the Duke of York’s and then the Ambassadors back in 2007. Generally if you have a look around the internet you will find people with a great deal of knowledge about the day queues of the West End. After all, it is the cheapest and best way to get great seats.
2) Do wrap up warm.
There is nothing worse than doing your research, finding out you have to be there EARLY and forgetting that it’s London and will inevitably be cold. Blankets are good, layers are certainly your friend. Take it from a regular day seater, lots of layers will work better than one blanket.
3) Do pick a stashing spot.
The thing with wrapping up really warm is that once you go into the theatre for the performance, you will inevitably be very hot. Most theatres have cloakrooms where you can pay (usually £1) for them to keep things, or if you live nearby consider popping home to drop off your layers.
4) Don’t push in.
If there’s no one waiting at the theatre entrance, assume you’re the first there and take a perch. If there are a few people waiting, join the queue. If they’re not making a queue, ask if they’re day seating. Sounds very simple but a lot of people can’t manage this 🙂
5) Don’t save a spot
If you have ten friends joining you ten minutes before the box office opens, don’t think you’ll be able to save a spot for them. The general consensus on Twitter was that people HATE this. If you have one friend joining you and you’re only buying two tickets, that’s ok, but any more than that is an issue. Remember that if you’ve been queueing since 5am, so have others in the queue. Your friends joining at 9.45 might stop those people getting tickets.
6) Do be nice
If you’re queueing on your own on a busy day, a day queue is a great place to make new friends. Chances are if you’re queueing, then you probably like the show so you already have something in common with others in the queue.
7) Do be prepared
Like any good girl guide/scout a day queuer shoudl be prepared. Chances are you probably won’t be able to leave the queue to get food and drink, so either buy it on the way or make it at home and bring it with you. Snacks are good, as are hot drinks in flasks especially on a cold winter’s day. If it’s an early day queue, go camper chic.There’s nothing worse than getting to the show in the evening and fainting – then all your hard queueing was wasted. Bring a crossword or something for entertainment if you’re on your own. If it’s a two show day, be clear when the box office opens about which show it is you want to see. If you have your eye on particular seats, let the box office know – they might be able to accomodate you.
8) Don’t smoke in the queue
One of my personal day queue peeves is when people sit down, get comfortable and then light up a cigarette. If everyone else is smoking then go for it, but please if no one else is smoking just step out of the queue for a moment. The way I see it is, if it’s 5am and I’m cold and tired, the last thing I want is someone blowing smoke all over me. Plus it means everyone in the queue will stink of cigarette smoke for a couple of hours.
9) Don’t gossip
Thing is, you never know who’s in the queue around you, so don’t gossip about the performers. It’s rude. Also, don’t talk too much about the show unless you know everyone else has seen it before. You might ruin it for some unsuspecting newbie!
10) Do Clean Up
If you’re eating and drinking and doing crosswords or whatever, please take your rubbish with you. The streets of London are not one giant bin (contrary to appearances sometimes) so pop everything in one bag and dump it when you find a bin. It makes the whole experience nicer for everyone.
So there’s my top ten Do’s and Don’ts for day seating in Londontown. If you have anything you want to add, drop me a comment at the bottom.