Over the holidays we went to see the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre in London. Now, being as it was simply a bit of frivolous fun we bought tickets in the balcony (the very top level), but we were sitting in the centre of the 3rd row and they did cost £30 each. Sitting in such seats at the London Coliseum or the Royal Opera House you would get a pretty decent view of the show. Granted, not quite all of the backdrop would be visible and apart from certain key crazy productions (Tristan anyone?) you would get a good musico-dramatic experience.
This is not what happened with Priscilla.
First, I must say that we did enjoy the show enormously and would highly recommend it, provided you sat in the better seats. But from our seats, the view was woeful. This is partly because the edge of the balcony is protected by a huge railing to prevent punters from falling over, something that the Coliseum and Covent Garden don't seem to need. But there again the balcony at the Palace is extremely steep; alarmingly so, goodness knows what it is like at the back.
But the main problem is that the much of the staging has been brought forward of the proscenium, over most of the pit. To be truthful, our seats had a perfectly decent view of the main part of the stage, you just couldn't see the fore-stage properly. And unfortunately most of the action takes place here. Now, I wouldn't object if we had been warned that these seats were in some way restricted view, but we were not. So instead we had to spend the evening craning our necks, trying to see round the heads of the people in front. For us it was possible, I don't know about the people behind.
This isn't the first time this has happened, we had a similar experience at the Playhouse Theatre when we went to see La Cage aux Folles. So let that be a lesson. When we take our frivolous Christmas treat next year, we'll have to stump up for seats further down the house and not rely on the sight lines in the upper levels. Perhaps theatres should introduce a visibility rating, to give punters an idea of what they are going to get?