Musical chairs

Hopefully, if you’re a theatre fan, you’re aware by now of the crowdsourcing website SeatPlan. You may not know that it has recently undergone a bit of a revamp.

Its staple remains gathering reviews from theatregoers of individual seats, however it has now started to add descriptions of rows (again, written by theatregoers – though hand-picked, this time) to try and give a better flavour of the constituent parts of each section. These are steadily being added, so keep an eye out!

There is now also an interactive seating plan for each of the included theatres. So, rather than having to search through and choose your row you can now pick specific seats from the overall map – simply clicking on the seat takes you to whatever review has been posted. Helpfully, the review has a photo, the colour of the seat on the map is darker; if it is white, there is not currently a review for that seat. This approach is ideal if you are being offered specific seats but want to check them out quickly first. You can still access reviews the ‘old’ way, by clicking through the rows on the lefthand side – however you are unable to quickly compare seats in a row, as they are now grouped together with the seat number as a higher level heading. This can make it a bit cumbersome if you’re trying to choose between seats in a row. It might also be useful to have photos of the auditorium, to try & give a quick idea of what the raking might be like.

SeatPlan is a brilliant resource for theatregoers, as theatres’ own websites can rarely be relied upon to provide decent descriptions or photos of the views from their seats. However, one of the most useful parts of the seat reviews tends to be a photo from the seat – but these are difficult to obtain due to the rules in place at most venues. Relying on a description alone can be dangerous, as there can be a lot of discrepancy between different individuals’ styles of review & the information they include. Once there are multiple reviews for a seat you can use your own judgement a bit better. I do feel that maybe including the photo of the ticket stub should be mandatory for all reviews – it’s not that I don’t trust people, but… You never know!

There are still venues missing, including big ones such as Trafalgar Studios & the Dorfman Theatre (National Theatre), which is frustrating as both a user & contributor to the site – but the site is ever-expanding, so you can but hope that these will make it on there some day. It might also be useful for links to current shows to be added, to allow users to click straight through to make bookings or find out more about the show;  it would join up the dots somewhat.

My main use of the site so far has been to add my own reviews. This is partly because I want fellow theatre lovers to gain the benefit of my experience and hopefully get a good seat – but there are selfish reasons involved too! For every 50 ‘awards’ (made up of reviews posted, photos attached, if people found the reviews helpful) you can claim a £10 theatre voucher. I have accumulated a few of these lately, and used them to feed my addiction to Sunny Afternoon! They have started to run competitions, whereby you can win tickets to certain shows when you leave a seat review in a specific period of time; this is less motivation to me, though I’m never one to turn down freebies.

On the whole, for me SeatPlan is a very positive thing and a resource that is becoming more useful by the day! If you’re unfamiliar with it, please do acquaint yourself and even add a review or two. SeatPlan: http://www.seatplan.com/

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