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Guest blog: Your First West End Theatre Visit with Children

Kitty Underwood

By Kitty Underwood First Published 11 August 2022, Last Updated 11 August 2022

Check out this great blog from Mum’s Guide To all about taking your kids to the theatre for the first time.

Taking your child to the theatre for the first time is a really special experience. Nothing can beat the magic of live performance! I still remember my first trip to our local theatre. It was at Christmas to the pantomime to see Jack and the Beanstalk in The Royal Opera House in Belfast – I can remember the butterflies in my stomach and being slightly overwhelmed by the size and opulence of the theatre. I was 6.

These days there are an abundance of shows suitable to give our youngest theatre goers the perfect introduction to the experience. Many are based on much-loved children’s books which will give a sense of familiarity. These also have the benefit of being short, often without an interval, to avoid children getting restless and losing their attention.

You might want to be a bit more adventurous though and head into London for the ultimate theatre experience.  This may seem a bit daunting with young children but if you plan ahead it can be a piece cake.

If you do decide the time is right for a trip to the West End then here’s our top tips…

Booking your show

  • Shows aimed at young children will be on at suitable times. Other general shows will have matinee performances, which are convenient if you are travelling into London and don’t want to be travelling home late with young children. Traditionally, matinee performances are on Wednesday and Saturday, but many shows are now offering them on other days instead or as well.
  • Many of London’s theatres are beautiful historic buildings, but this means their construction predates modern requirements for accessibility and amenities so they’ve been adapted over time. If you have particular access needs take a look at the theatre website for information or contact them directly for help to see how they can accommodate you. Many shows now offer accessible performances – relaxed, signed, audio described or captioned. Take a look at the individual show website to find out when these are.
  • Once you’ve decided on the show, you need to book your tickets. There are lots of official sites where you can get last minute deals, but if you are planning to go during the school holidays then you may need to plan ahead a bit more, especially if it’s a popular show and you want to catch a matinee. One of the best ways to get cheaper tickets is through Kids Week. Run by the Society of London Theatre, this started many years ago as a single week in August and due to popularity has expanded to cover the whole of the month offering one child under 18 free up to two half-price with each paying adult, to a range of shows. As you can imagine it is extremely popular and you have to be quick on launch day to get tickets for the most popular shows, but with perseverance we’ve never failed to get something great every year – Lion King, School of Rock, Matilda, Mary Poppins to name a few.

Just some of the shows included in Kids Week this year

Plan your day

  • Plan your travel and allow plenty of time. There is nothing worse than thinking you might miss the start of your show because the train was late or the tube was delayed. We always head in nice and early and find a coffee shop nearby to relax in until showtime. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants in the West End so it’s easy to find somewhere near the theatre for a drink or a bite to eat beforehand.
  • Be aware that the foyer areas of many London theatres are small so there may not be much space for storing things like buggies so check ahead with the theatre.  Most are near tube stations but do think about how much walking little ones will have to do if you can’t take a buggy.
  • London is a fabulous city with loads to see and do so you could make a day of it and combine your theatre trip with some sight-seeing too. We have some great ideas in our article all about London here.

Juliet, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Henry VIII and Rizzo on the Elizabeth Line

At the theatre

  • Some theatres, if the show is suitable for children will have booster cushions available, but they are often limited in number and first-come first-served, so get there nice and early if you want to secure one – or you could bring your own cushion (just for the children of course!)
  • We know what it’s like out and about with children! It can feel like you are carrying everything but the kitchen sink to deal with any possible emergency, but we’d recommend limiting your bag size as there’s often not a lot of space to stow your bags at your seat. There is usually a cloakroom where larger bags can be left.  The content of all bags will be checked on entry to the theatres.
  • And last but not least we’d advise making sure that everyone use the toilets in plenty of time before the start of the show, either in the theatre or perhaps at a café/restaurant beforehand.  As mentioned earlier, many of London’s theatres are historic buildings so there’s often not enough toilets.  You don’t want to leave it too late and end up missing part of the show.  If the children are likely to need to go again during the interval be ready as soon the interval starts to get to the toilets before the queues get too long.

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