Sunday, 6 May 2018
Finding theatre for theatre nerds is relatively easy; we’re plugged into sources that tell us what’s on when, who is in it and how much we’re likely to pay. We also have our favourite theatres, actors on our radar and directors we’re unlikely to miss. However, as a non-London resident I often find I miss these things, and when it comes to booking London trips- especially for friends or family- find myself scrolling through endless websites trying to find out what’s on, where and most importantly how much it will cost me. So, when asked to take a look at Seatplan’s website I was hoping to find a resource to cover all that and one I could happily send my less theatre-savvy friends and family to. It does all that and (drumroll please) also gives up to date information on the actual seats, the view and comfort.
If I’m paying West End prices for theatre, I want to know if my backside will survive the night. And if my view will be mainly of a pillar. So Seatplan could actually be the answer to my theatrical prayers….
The web-page itself is fairly intuitive with both an option to simply browse the list of shows, or to filter. If you’ve something in mind- be it a date, type of show or offers the toolbar at the left of the page will filter by one or all three of these categories. Useful for people who just want musicals, are only in London for a particular month, or are bargain hunting. This filter the display leaving you to browse only those in your preferred categories. Much faster than scrolling through the full listings on other sites, clicking through only to find the play ends two weeks before you arrive, or only has seats starting way above your budget. All major London shows are here, like the listings you’d find on other sites, but the clear and easy to use format makes it a really useful way to both get an idea of what’s on, and quickly find all the additional information you might need.
A quick scan of the homepage gives an overview of London’s big shows visually as well. Using the posters and artwork lets visitors scan the page for either a familiar image or let something leap out at them. Currently ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’ is doing a great job of leaping off the page with the vibrant artwork so that seems a good example as any to take for the next stage of using the site. Clicking on a show- in this case the Fabulous Jamie- gives you a detailed overview of the show itself including up to date cast information, awards and a short summary. In this respect the information Seatplan holds isn’t much different to many other sites out there, but it’s clearly presented, easy to read and offers everything of that nature you could need to know.
The functional elements of Seatplan are really helpful in finding shows to book among the myriad of listings and booking sites for Theatre. The real bonus however is the review section. Rather than relying on star ratings from critics, or an arbitrary rating given by the site itself, Seatplan pulls ratings from its users. Under each information section are a collection of continually updated reviews from actual audience members. Mostly short, they give a neat overview of what real audiences are saying about the shows. This is a real unique element, because aside from searching social media, genuine audience reaction is difficult to come by. Instead most booking and information sites on theatre rely on the traditional critical reviews. And while reading a review is useful, knowing what the average audience member thinks of the show you’re about to see can be more so.
But the reviews of shows aren’t all that Seatplan offers, they also offer reviews of seats. While not the first to offer this- other websites have also been doing this for a number of years- the site combines your seat review with booking, offering honest audience feedback on the seat you’re about to pay for. This is really useful-especially if deciding between two seat prices, a few reviews and the knowledge that the leg room is slightly better in one might indeed swing it. The one critique of this service is that it’s not immediately apparent that it exists- it took some clicking about and attempting to make a ‘mock purchase’ to discover how and where the seat reviews were. An easier ‘click in’ as for show reviews, would make finding the seat information- and having a quick scout out of the seating options/price bands- easier to navigate. But this is a minor quibble on an otherwise really useful add-on to ticket buying.
Seatplan is a great website for both an overview of ‘what’s on’ as well as some in depth, real user commentary on the shows and the seats you’ll be sitting in. While the ‘one stop shop’ approach might not win over the loyal theatre crowd used to booking direct with theatres or producers, Seatplan is the perfect place to direct the more casual theatre-goer in its easy to use format, and detailed information. Given time to keep building those seat and show reviews however, and the die-hard theatre crowd could also be navigating over, finding the very best seat for their money-and sharing their own theatrical wisdom with others.
Book tickets at Seatplan here
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