Only a week until I get to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time! AND only a week and one day until my first ever Press Invite, watching Thick as Thieves production of The Tempest at The Hope Theatre. In case you can’t tell, I am very excited!
I’ve been booking to see quite a few shows at the moment: Book of Mormon for Father’s Day, The Play That Goes Wrong, High Society…damn, why am I booking so many?! And when I’m booking tickets, I’m always torn between going for Matinee or Evening performances. So this week, I thought I’d look at the pros and cons of Matinees vs. Evenings, from my own experience.
I’m quite lucky in terms of my availability for going to shows. My full-time contract is Thursday-Monday, so this gives me the option of booking Wednesday matinees or to queue for Day Tickets on what tend to be quieter days. Plus, because I work over on the South Bank, it’s only like a 30 minute walk to Covent Garden/Leicester Square, or a 20 minute tube journey. So I can book evening shows and still have time to grab dinner too!
Before starting full-time, I would go for matinees, but now I tend to go to evening performances more. This is half because it makes sense to go see plays while I’m up in London anyway for work, and half because of my recent experience with matinees.
Each show slot does have its pros and cons, and I thought I’d compare them by looking at what kind of experience they give you with regard to 3 things: Ticket Availability, Ticket Prices, and Audience.
Evenings are always going to be busy: you’ve got people coming from work, people out for the evening, tourists, everyone and their Mum. Literally, I often go with family to evening shows!
That being said, if you’re looking for last minute availability, evening shows may have better availability than matinees. For quiet days like matinees, theatres will often offer discounts to large groups; this will mean that whole rows of the theatre may be sold out or have limited availability. But if you’re only looking for 1 or 2 seats, chances are there will be some available together somewhere.
For example, Book of Mormon is one of the hottest tickets in London right now! But if you look at today’s availability, you might be surprised.
In the Dress Circle, there are 23 seats available for tonight’s show compared to only 6 for the matinee. And in the Stalls, both performances have similar availability: 47 tickets for the matinee vs. 50 for the evening.
If you’re booking for a show in advance and one which is proving popular, you’ll find that Wednesday Matinees will have the best availability. Wednesdays tend to be less popular than evenings or even Saturday matinees, as most people are at work. An example of this is The Garrick’s The Winter’s Tale: if you check the availability, the only days which haven’t sold out and have good availability are Wednesday or Thursday matinees in December.
By going for Wednesday matinees, I’ve managed to get tickets for nearly sold out shows like American Psycho and Strangers on a Train. Plus if demand is high, there is always a chance of shows adding an extra matinee on a Wednesday or Thursday. In fact, the Almeida has just done this:
Most evening tickets will be full price.
But, if you’re looking for a ticket and meal deal, evenings are probably the best times to get one. Most of the deals on LOVEtheatre etc. are for an evening performance and dinner included. This is because it’s more common for restaurants to do pre-theatre packages for evening shows than matinees.
Sometimes, you will find that matinee tickets are indeed cheaper. And this is particularly true for certain groups which qualify for concessions: Senior Citizens, School Children, and Groups of 10 or more.
At The Old Vic, for example, for the current production of High Society, they are offering the following concessions:
Senior Citizens: Best available seats for £30 for all matinee performances only.
Groups 10+: £10 off £60, £50, £30 tickets for Mon – Wed eves & Wed matinees.
School Groups 10+: £12 for Mon – Wed eves & Wed & Tue matinees. (http://www.oldvictheatre.com/your-visit/booking-information/)
In addition to offering concessions, other theatres actually change the seat prices altogether. I was trying to choose between going to see a matinee or evening show of Book of Mormon for Father’s Day, and in the end I swung towards matinee. That was because the identical seats which I was choosing between were actually cheaper for the matinee: they were about £77 for the evening, but only £49 for the matinee. So it’s always worth getting checking on the website to see if there is any subtle difference.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where an evening audience hasn’t been hot.
And by hot, I mean totally in to the show. Not sexy. Although they could also be sexy!
Anyway, evening shows are always good fun: people finishing work, having looked forward to this all day…and having had some wine before always helps! The first time I saw Book of Mormon was an evening show, and the audience was so into it! People were clapping, whistling, wooing! It got all the laughs in all the right places, and even some unexpected one!
And I’m really glad I saw it with that audience reaction. Because I’ve found that matinees…well they can have a less animated reaction.
There is nothing wrong with matinee crowds, per say. I’ve just found the response to be somewhat…mixed.
Over the past year I’ve been to 3 or 4 matinees, and each has had some sort of problem with the audience. Mostly it being empty.
When I went to Return to the Forbidden Planet, I went on a Wednesday matinee with my friend Jas. It’s a jukebox musical + The Tempest + tons of Shakespeare references. I should have loved it!
But unfortunately, the theatre was half empty and the majority of people there were senior citizens. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just there’s a scene where they throw an inflatable ball into the audience. And it kept falling into the front row where no-one was sat. And it was hardly being chucked around with much oomph! So the jokes didn’t get the laughs, and the killer guitar solo got little reaction. Which sort of sucked the fun out of it.
Another example was when I got Entry Pass tickets to see Great Britain at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It had just transferred, and the hype was still pretty good for it! But when I got to my seat, I noticed 2 problems: 1) 3/4 of the circle was empty, and 2) There was a large school group.
I’m not against bringing schools to shows. It’s a great way to introduce them to theatre, the tickets are cheaper since it’s a matinee and a group, and they get to experience it with their friends.
The problem was that they were disruptive. And noise carries in an empty theatre. The worst thing I heard was their reaction to the very talented Kiruna Stamell. When her character appears, I heard one pupil go ‘Awww’.
Do bring kids to shows. Don’t bring them if they’re close-minded, insensitive twats.
Even though matinees may have discounts and good availability, I’d still go for evenings.
You can have a production with the best actors in the world, the best script in the world, and the best stage. But if you’ve only got half an audience and a pretty crap one at that, it’s only going to get half the reaction it deserves.