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Ask Lyn: Solo theatre trips

Ask Lyn: Solo theatre trips

Ask Lyn: Solo theatre trips cover photo on Stagedoor
"Dear Lyn, lots of my friends think I’m strange, but I enjoy going to the theatre on my own. But will social distancing mean that theatres will be less willing to sell single seats?" - Fiona, Archway

Dear Fiona,

I don’t think you are strange at all. I love going to the theatre on my own. We read a book alone, so why not enjoy theatre alone? There are no distractions, you don’t have to accommodate other people’s tastes or take responsibility for their enjoyment of the evening, or negotiate whether you will or won’t be having an interval drink, and you can concentrate fully on the show. There are plenty more like us. Great Aunt Cecily ran out of friends willing to see Les Mis after the 17th visit, and has since been flying solo and pleasing herself.

I have said it before, but I have never felt lonely in the middle of a packed auditorium. Oddly, just as travelling alone means you are much more likely to discover new companions and make friends, so solo theatregoing often means you end up talking to other people and discussing the play. So going to the theatre on your own can end up being a sociable experience even without a friend in tow.

In the past, pre-pandemic, I have certainly heard complaints that it can sometimes be difficult to book a single seat via theatre websites for hit shows, because houses prefer to sell seats in pairs or to groups. But, of course, some groups are made up of three people leaving a spare seat. Singletons often have an advantage when it comes to last minute deals and day seats.

But I understand the worry that with theatres putting social distancing in place which vastly reduces capacity and therefore also income, that single seats will be squeezed out or you will have to pay a premium. I heard about people booking shows last summer who discovered they could book a single seat, but only in the higher price range, even when two seats together were available in lower price brackets.

That’s not good news and in the longer run it's not good for business unless you are a theatre producer with a really hot ticket. I suspect that what a hot ticket looks like may change as more theatres open up and more shows become available. Last summer there was a very limited offering and lots of pent-up demand. That is likely to change as we move through the year.

It would be short-sighted of the industry to penalise singletons at a time when it needs to sell every ticket that it can, and do everything it can to increase confidence and encourage audiences back to the theatre. Particularly when the rest of society is opening up too and groups of friends who haven’t seen each other for a while may favour a trip to a pub or a restaurant rather than to immediately see a show. Far better to actively court singleton theatre goers particularly at a time when statistics show that growing numbers of people live alone, and the pleasure of solo theatre-going is being more widely appreciated.

The good news is that when I looked via Stagedoor I found plenty of tickets for upcoming socially distanced shows from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie to Six where it was possible to book a single ticket in a wide variety of price ranges. I hope that where they lead others will follow, not least because while it would be nice to think that social distancing in the theatre will be a thing of the past come 21st June, that is by no means a dead cert.

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

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