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UK theatre information:
Terminology Explained

Some of the terminology can be difficult so we have put together a list of some of the common words and phrases that might confuse readers. For our American readers we have included the equivalent phrase in italics, where applicable.

Administration charge
See Booking fee.

Auditorium
Refers to the main part of the theatre i.e. seats and stage.

Balcony Gallery or second balcony
The Fourth level of seating in a theatre, if present, is the Balcony. See our guide to seating plans to help you decide where to sit.

Booking fee
The ticket agencies buy tickets from the box office and charge you extra to cover their own costs and the cost of distributing tickets. This must not be more than 25% including VAT of the ticket's face value.

Dress Circle/Royal Circle Mezzanine or first mezzanine
The second level of seating in a theatre is called the Dress Circle (evening dress used to be required) , or the Royal Circle (the Royal Box is on this level). See our guide to seating plans to help you decide where to sit.

Face value
The "face value" is the price you would pay if you bought the tickets from the theatre box office. The face value must not be obscured and the agency is legally bound to tell you the face value of your tickets if you ask. If booking by phone they must tell you this if you ask.

First nights
First nights, or opening nights, are reserved for special people from friends of the cast to reviewers. These are not necessarily the first performance as they may have been public previews.

Gallery
See Balcony.

Grand Circle
See Upper Circle.

House
See Auditorium.

House Seats
These refer to the good seats reserved by the theatre in case they or the producer needs to use them for their own purposes. They are not available to the public until shortly before the start of the show. See Buying at the last minute if you want to book these.

Matineé performances
A matineé is an early afternoon performance, which can start from 1 p.m. onwards, usually 2-3 p.m.. Some theatres may have a later matineé so always check the times for these. They are better suited to people who want to take their children to the theatre as the evening performances can be too late for many. Matineé performances are usually on a week day or Saturday but occasionally there may be one on a Sunday.

Opening nights
See First nights.

Previews
Shows may be performed in front of a paying audiences before the opening night. These are basically full dress rehearsals in front of an audience. Producers and directors can fine tune a show and see how an audience reacts.

Programme Playbill
The programme contains the cast list, synopsis of the show and other background information. Programmes can be bought at the theatre's box office or from the Ushers.

Rake
This is the gentle slope of the floor downwards from the rear to the front so that each seat is elevated above the one in front. Some stages have a gentle slope from the rear towards the audience to make the back of the stage more easily visible from the stalls. This is also called the rake.

Repertory
One company of actors perform several plays one after the other, repeatedly. This gives the audience a good choice of shows within a short period of time.

Reserved Tickets
Some theatres such as the Royal National Theatre reserve some tickets which only go on sale the day of the performance. Check out the page on buying theatre tickets on the day/last minute for more information.

Returns
These are tickets from people can not go to a performance and ask the box office to sell their tickets or from agencies that have not managed to sell all their allocation. Make sure you arrive a few hours before the performance and you should be able to get tickets. Check out the page on buying theatre tickets on the day/last minute for more information.

Royal Circle
See Dress Circle.

Souvenir Brochure
This is a glossy item with nice photographs and articles, which is sold for major shows. If you want something to remember the show then these can be useful.

Stalls Orchestra
The lowest seating area in a theatre, which is the largest area of the auditorium is called the Stalls, which is the same level as the orchestra. See our guide to seating plans to help you decide where to sit.

Standby tickets
These are usually the house seats held back in case the producer or theatre needs them. Shortly before a show starts many theatres sell off their standby tickets cheaply. Check out the page on buying theatre tickets on the day/last minute for more information.

Touts Scalpers
We have a whole page about touts and why you should not buy theatre tickets from them.

Upper Circle/Grand Circle Second Mezzanine or Balcony
The third level of seating in a theatre is the Upper Circle or Grand Circle. See our guide to seating plans to help you decide where to sit.

Usher/Usherette Attendant
These nice folk are there to help you find your seats and to deal with minor complaints/requests.



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