“Not many people go to the theatre on their own.”
I’d like to counter a pretty big misconception: a lot of people do plan theatre trips for just themselves. Not only that, they enjoy it!
“Ooh, that’s brave. I couldn’t do it.”
Not really. I mean, yes, if you’re a shy, not particularly independent person – it’s a hurdle to get over to start with. It’s daunting knowing you’ll have to look after yourself, but once you start there’s no looking back. Four years ago last week marked my first solo trip to the theatre in London, to see Travelling Light at the National. Not long after that I planned my first mini theatre break, staying over in the big smoke for a few days & seeing Top Hat. And from then on I was travelling over from Somerset on a monthly basis (sometimes more than once a month) to see shows all by myself. It got to such ridiculous levels that I decided it would be cheaper to actually live in London – and somehow I made that happen! The benefits of that are that I can see shows repeatedly (hello, Sunny Afternoon), and also build up a solid group of theatre friends. This almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if I only went with someone to the theatre.
So now I have the choice of going on my own, or going with someone with minimal planning – a balance of the two is perfect. My motivation to start going on my own was borne out of the wish to see that particular play, as well as the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t find anyone who’d want to come with me – or if they did, they’d be so disorganised that the opportunity would come & go, and I’d be the one left most disappointed. (Can you tell that I speak from bitter experience?) I shouldn’t have to miss out because of other people, or my own fear, so…
Being there on your own also means you might be more likely to strike up conversations with the people sat around you, which ends up making the show experience even more enjoyable. This week alone I’ve had a couple of these experiences. Three days in a row I’ve ended up at the same show as one lady, who happened to recognise me from my Sunny exploits when we were sat next to each other at the Park Theatre. And on Monday I had one of my favourite audience experiences ever – I was sat amidst the most wonderful family from Chicago at Sunny Afternoon, who were over on their first trip to London together as part of a European tour.
From the simplest of questions (“So are you a Kinks fan, or a theatre fan?”) we talked about their adventures in London so far, what they had planned for the rest of their trip, and just life in general. It was wonderful to hear how much they were enjoying themselves, packing as much in as they could – and their love for the history on show in day-to-day life in London. And the theatre, of course! I may have spent a fair bit of time bigging the show up, too, so it was heartening to hear them all having a great time once it started – as well as getting some feedback from them during the interval & at the end. It seems they were particular fans of Dave, the management team & the American chauffeur (“Welcome to Illinois!”)!
It ended up being one of the best nights at Sunny that I can remember, and that was down to both the cast (obviously) and having a great time in the audience. Yes, if I’d been there with someone else we’d have enjoyed ourselves, but probably wouldn’t have engaged with the people around us – and that’s what makes solo trips worthwhile.
So if you’re umming & ahhing about taking that chance, then stop hesitating and do it! You may end up having an incredible experience with the people around you. Or you could just have a good time watching the show by yourself. And you’ll get to see anything you want without having to rely on other people. What’s the worst that could happen?