From the Stalls to the Upper Circle, Frankly My Dear UK talk you through the best places to sit in The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre
As a theatre blogger, I’m often asked my opinion about all things theatre including the best places to sit. The seat that you choose can greatly affect how you feel about a performance and if you’re parting with £40 to £50 per ticket for a theatre show, great consideration should go into your decision on which seats to buy. But with so many choices, where is the best place to sit at the theatre? Thankfully, I’ve got the answer… well, for The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre at the least.
For those unfamiliar with this particular theatre space, The Lowry is one of the most popular theatres in the North West hosting over 500 shows a year. The Lyric is the biggest of three theatres at the venue, boasting the UK’s largest stage outside of London and seating for up to 1,730 in fixed tiered seating designed by Ferrari no less! As a relatively newish theatre (the world-class arts centre opened in 2010), it benefits from being well designed, so much so, that you can see from almost anywhere. Unlike older theatres, the Lyric also benefits from comfy seating (I’ve watched three James Plays back-to-back and didn’t get a numb bum once). All of this means that if you only have a few pounds to your name, you can catch a show from as little as £10 and still see the stage. Good news for all.
Like most theatres, The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre is made up of three levels. The floor seating directly in front of the stage at ground level is called the stalls. The stalls are considered some of the best seats in the house and, as such, will often be sold at the highest price. Audience members sat here can expect to come away from a show feeling that they not only had a great view but also felt part of the action. But which seats in the stalls are the best?
Rows A to J
The stalls in the Lyric Theatre run from rows A to X. The central front rows (rows A to J) are often the most expensive seats in the auditorium. This is the best place to sit if you enjoy seeing the expressions on the actors’ faces and if you really want to feel a part of the performance. For music and stand-up gigs (if you’re brave enough), you’ll have a view like no other and the first row in particular (which confusingly can sometimes be row B), offers plenty of room for dancing.
For bigger musicals and ballets, the rows may start further back (from approximately row E to G) to accommodate the Orchestra. While these rows may be slightly further back from the stage, they can sometimes offer a better view than those right at the front because you’re not straining your neck to look up at the stage. In terms of cost, you’re looking at approximately £40 to £70 for a seat in this area for musicals and bigger shows and around £20 to £30 for plays or comedy gigs, depending on the show.
Rows K to P
If you don’t want to sit too close to the stage but still want a great view, aim for rows K to P. These rows are close enough to the stage to still feel part of the action but not too close that you feel almost on top of the performers. The middle section, in particular, will give you the best view although the sides aren’t bad at all, particularly the closer you are to the aisle. To give you an idea of how great this section is, seats in this area of the theatre are often given to the press to review shows as they offer the best view. In terms of cost, you’re looking at a similar cost to rows A to J so approximately £40 to £70 for a musical or £20 to £30 for a smaller play or comedy gig. Seats in the far side stalls (those closer to the walls, not the aisle) are usually slightly cheaper.
Rows Q to X
As I mentioned before, you get a pretty good view wherever you sit in the Lyric so even if you’re sat as far back at row T, you can still see the stage with practically no overhang from circle above. It is only when you reach the far back of the theatre (Rows V, W and X) that you might start to see the circle overhanging. As these seats are quite far back, they can feel a little out of the action but you still have a pretty decent view and a quick exit at the end of the show to help avoid the big crowds all heading to the car park. Again, there is little difference in terms of cost with seats in this area ranging from £40 to £70 for centre stalls and around £35 to £45 for the side stalls, depending on the show.
All of the seats in The Lowry often decent leg room (around 12” of leg room with the seat down) but if you need extra, aim for row K at the sides which have the walkway in front of them. Just bear in mind that this row also caters for those in wheelchairs so availability may be limited.
Word of Warning: If you’re a little on the short side, bear in mind that the seats in the stalls only have a slight rake so if get someone tall in front of you, you still may not be able to see. I’m 5’6’’ and have struggled to see the stage fully because of this problem. If you want to avoid this, aim for the aisle seats as they tend to stick out a little bit more than the row in front or consider a seat in the circle.
Personally, in my experience, I’d also avoid Row L Seats L8, L9, L30 and L31 if possible. This is because the row in front has wheelchair access which means legroom can be a little tight (as wheelchairs are a lot bulkier and have a higher back than a normal seat) and your view can often be restricted. That said, if you don’t have someone in front of you, you could end up with one of the best seats in the house!
The seating area above the Stalls and one level up is called the Circle. Being one level up gives you a great view and the chance to look down and fully appreciate the set, choreography and patterns created by the performers’ footwork – aspects you might miss looking up from the stalls. If you are taking children to a show, sitting in the Circle is also a great choice because the seats in this section have a steeper rake, meaning that people’s heads in the rows in front will not generally block their (or your) view, and as the whole section is raised up, offers a great view of the stage.
Rows A to H
If you take a look at a seating map, you’ll see the Circle is much smaller than Stalls, boasting just eight rows in total in comparison to a whopping 24 rows in the Stalls. This section is split into three main areas – the Centre Circle (the middle of the stage) the Centre Stalls (the side of the stage) and the Side Stalls (the far right and far left of the stage). Where possible, try to aim for Centre Circle (Row A, Seat 24 is the best in this section) as these offer the best views in the house, especially for dance productions and musicals with a big set. Because of the view, these seats are often the same price as similar rows in Stalls so around £40 to £70 for a musical or £20 to £30 for a smaller play or comedy gig.
Word of Warning: Whilst the Circle offers great views, if you’re a little unsteady on your feet, you may want to consider choosing a seat in the Stalls. This is because the stairway leading down to seats is a little steep and there is no handrail on way down to support you.
There are also a couple of seats in this area with a restricted view (this will be stated when booking your tickets). This means that your view of the stage is partially blocked or obscured by the safety rail blocking your eye line. The Far Side Stalls (A1 to A6 and A54 to A59) in particular have this issue, although you are compensated by being super close to the stage. These seats will often be cheaper, ranging from £20 to £30 depending on the show.
The Upper Circle
The third seating area is the Upper Circle (Second Mezzanine) which is split into two sections – the Front Upper Circle and the Rear Upper Circle. The cheapest tickets can always be found up here because your view isn’t as great as the Stalls or the Circle. Obviously, the higher up you go, the further away you are from the stage but don’t let that put you off. The Upper Circle can still offer some decent views and if you’re watching a show with good performers, their performance should reach you no matter where you sit. I have sat in the Upper Circle on numerous occasions and found that for the price you pay, the seats offer great value for money.
Rows A to F
Rows A to F form part of the Front Upper Circle. While further back, still have a decent view of the stage and despite there being a safety rail on the first row, if you’re sat in the middle it doesn’t really hinder your view. The same can be said for the seats further back. Even the last row in this section (row F) offers a decent view, although this whole section is very steep so if you suffer from vertigo, you’re best avoiding this area. In terms of cost, seats in this area range from around £30 to £40 for a bigger show but as little as £10 for smaller shows (or those linked with a special offer), which is great value for money.
Rows G to M
Rows G to M form part of the Rear Upper Circle. This is the furthest you can go back in the theatre and is often known as ‘up in the Gods’ because you’re so high up. The seats in this section have a higher back than those in the Stalls and the Circle but less leg room (around 9’’ with the seat down). Some seats in this area also have a very restricted view so be wary when booking a ticket. G1 to G4 and G57 to G60, in particular, are very restricted from the front barrier, so much so, that you’d need to sit forward in order to see the stage. Thankfully, the view gets a little better as you move around. In fact, you may be better moving slightly further back (row K or even to the last row M) which both offer decent views from the middle section. In terms of price, rows G to K range from £30 to £35 and rows L to M are around £20 to £10 for a big show. The restricted view seats are slightly cheaper (about £20) but aren’t really worth it in my opinion.
Word of Warning: There is no middle aisle in this section so the seats run from 1 to 60 with no break. If you’re sitting in this area, be sure to check you’ve gone through the right door otherwise you’ll have to move past a lot of grumpy people (with very little leg room to start with) in order to get to your seat.
Like the Circle, some seats in this section have a restricted view. Once again, this means that your view of the stage may be partially blocked by safety rail or back support. Where possible, try to avoid A1 to A8 and A68 to A61 which are all marked as restricted view.
Finally, as I mentioned before, the whole of the Upper Circle section is very steep so if you suffer from vertigo you are probably best avoiding this area. There are a lot of steps and almost no handrails so make sure you are comfortable with this before booking a seat in this area.
On a budget? If you don’t fancy paying a premium, consider checking the seating map to find out where the top-price ticket area ends and booking the seat next to, behind or in front of it. The view will not be that different but the price might be. This money-saving tip works for almost every decision about where to sit at the theatre.
Age pays: If you’re aged between 18-25, grab a theatre ticket for under £10 when you sign up to The Lowry’s U26 scheme. Basically, they send you an email every couple of weeks with the latest offers and when you go to pick up the tickets, you just need to take some ID with you to prove you’re aged between 18 and 25. Bargain! A similar scheme is also available for under 16s, students in full-time education, disabled people, 60+ in full-time retirement, job seekers and participants of the New Deal. Concession prices are shown where they apply. If you don’t fit into either of these categories (like me), then consider signing up for The Lowry’s mailing list as they often send out offers, so you can bag yourself a great deal or take advantage of pre-sale events.
Book direct: Finally, save on booking fees and take advantage of the best seats in the house by booking direct with the theatre. This works particularly well for music and comedy events. A colleague of mine got cheaper tickets AND front row seats for an 80s pop band by booking via The Lowry instead of Ticketmaster so it pays to do a little research beforehand.
If you found this article helpful, please help it reach more people by sharing it on social media. Finally, I’d like to say a huge thanks to the lovely staff at The Lowry for giving me access to the theatre out-of-hours to take these images.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.