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Lord Laurence Olivier with his family at the 1985 Society of West End Theatre Awards (Olivier Awards) (Photo: Alan Davidson)

Lord Laurence Olivier with his family at the 1985 Society of West End Theatre Awards (Olivier Awards) (Photo: Alan Davidson)

Boxing Clever

Published 21 July 2016

By Niall Palmer

A box (or loge) is a small, private seating area for a limited number of people. Boxes are generally placed close to the stage off to the side, meaning that they can have an acute viewing angle.

Some boxes can be booked online and each theatre’s own website should offer information about any viewing restrictions. A safer bet is to book a box directly with the theatre in person or by telephone, as this will allow you to ask relevant information about the box including restricted views, stairs, facilities and important details like whether you might be sharing with others.

Although some boxes may have fixed seating, it’s more usual to find they contain movable dining-room type chairs. It’s always worth bearing in mind that if you are sharing boxes with others you may need to compromise so that you all have a fair chance of the best view.

Box seats were once the favoured options for famous, wealthy individuals. Nowadays, most celebrities prefer to sneak in just as the show is starting precisely to remain incognito, and many theatres use at least some of their boxes for technical elements of the show such as sound or lighting rig.

Cost

Prices vary from show to show – sometimes box seats will be top price to reflect their desirability but at other times may be reduced to lower price bands if the view is particularly restricted. That said, don’t assume that the price is always the best indication of viewing experience. The box office will invariably be best placed to give the most accurate advice.

Seating Plans

Online seating plans are useful, but in reality they are only a guide when it comes to boxes. Occasionally boxes are off-sale because they are used during the show for sound or lighting equipment or may not be sold online. Again, it’s always best to ask.

Unexpected Visitors

Very occasionally you might find a cast member popping up beside you at an unexpected moment. One show which notably uses boxes as an integral part of the performance is Phantom of the Opera. A terrible fate befalls anyone who doesn’t heed the Phantom’s demand that box five is to be kept empty!

What’s In A Name?

Most theatres use an alphabetical system for labelling boxes: Box A, Box B etc. However, some notable exceptions are:

  • The Old Vic, which nods to its illustrious alumni with boxes named Benthall, Guthrie, Atkins and Olivier
  • The Playhouse Theatre chooses George Bernard Shaw, Marie Tempest, Gladys Cooper and Prince of Wales Boxes.
  • The Prince Edward Theatre has both boxes and lettered Loges. It also has stalls boxes set back from the last row of Stalls seating.
  • The Prince of Wales Theatre has numbered boxes and The Queens Theatre has Loges 1 & 2

Some larger theatres which you might expect to have numerous boxes have only one (the Savoy) while others have as many as 14 (the London Palladium).

VIP Packages

Many theatres offer VIP hospitality packages. These might include champagne, canapés, exclusive use of certain areas within the theatre etc. or even your own dedicated host. Again, it’s best to contact individual theatres to see what’s on offer. The price is generally in addition to the cost of your ticket.

Accessibility

Boxes may provide a great alternative for those who find a regular theatre seat restrictive. Some (though not all) boxes also offer extra accessibility. For instance, the Shaftesbury Theatre can build a ramp into Box F if they are notified in advance that it is needed by a patron. It is important to speak directly to each theatre’s own box office to ensure that your access needs can be met and that your visit runs smoothly.

Did you know?

Amongst the most expensive boxes in London are those of The Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. Opened in 1871, some seats were offered to wealthy individuals on a 999 year lease. In 2011, an original box with wood veneer and mirrored panel which once belonged to Earl Spencer and which still has 860 years remaining on its lease came up for sale: a snip at £550,000… but even that paled in comparison to a 10 seat Grand Tier box, sold in 2008 for £1.2 million!

So, if you want to book a box, go for it! Boxes aren’t for everyone, but some of us love them, and it’s always fun to be Queen for a night.

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