Are you sitting comfortably?
If you visit the theatre much, you'll know that to appreciate the work of cast, crew, director and writer, your seat matters. Sometimes it can matter a lot - if, say, you spend an evening doubled-up in a roof peering at indiscernible people making noises, it's likely you'll miss some of the nuances of the performance.
Last night, I saw a final preview of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies at London's Adelphi Theatre. Any comment on the production itself is embargoed, but I can mention what we could describe as "pay and conditions".
My ticket was free, but the Austrian woman to my left had paid £65 to sit in the "gods". The experience is not celestial, with the stage so far away, you have the sense that you are watching other people watching a show. My neighbour tried to use her "opera glasses" - a pair of small red pay-per-view binoculars of limited telescopic power - but didn't have the necessary contortionist's skills to whip her right leg behind her head to create the room needed to pull them out.
The loudspeaker carrying the voices to us was tinny like an old Fidelity record player. The woman in front of me had a nice hairdo, which was a plus, as it took up most of my line of vision. And where her hair wasn't, the ceiling was. I tried craning to my left to peer between heads, but the Austrian lady indicated I was moving our relationship on too quickly.
Later, we compared notes. Both of us lost sensation in the right leg first, and that meant we both stopped feeling the pain of the opera glasses embedding themselves into the right knee. We talked about the show and discussed the prices. She thought they were disgraceful.
I pointed out that tickets are advertised for our part of the theatre - the Upper Circle - from £25 to £47.50. Then a large man from the back row interjected. I can't remember whether ballerinas sweat or perspire, but he was doing both. "Bloody marvellous," he beamed. "The wife's had a lovely time and I've done all my e-mails."
Later, I checked some of the internet chatter about the production; sightlines and audience experience were topics of discussion. One post from Finland reads (with details of the show itself redacted):
Nobody could deny the huge risks impresarios take in creating new shows or should begrudge them their success when they have a hit. But the audience doesn't expect to have to shoulder a burden of risk too. Ideally, when they buy such a ticket, the quality of their experience should always be a hit.