That is definitely the question.
In all my (by now quite lengthy) theatre-going and tour organising days I have never before paid for a theatre seat from which there was absolutely no view of the stage whatsoever.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in seats AA22-25 in the Grand (Upper) Circle at the Noël Coward theatre you can, by bending forwards – and thereby partly obstructing your neighbour’s view – just about see a tiny corner of the stage. If you have the stamina to stay that way, and it’s not comfortable, you may just catch sight of the odd actor now and again, probably a subsidiary one as the active ones usually occupy a space somewhere near the centre. You can hear what’s going on pretty well, and I know it’s called an auditorium, but actually you will probably be wishing you’d stayed at home. And if like me you were responsible for booking the tickets in the first place for students who’ve paid a considerable amount to come to London with the express purpose of seeing theatre in the first place, you will feel humiliated and deeply embarrassed.
I did point out the problem to the owners of the theatre, Delfont Mackintosh, and they did take my comments seriously and responded courteously explaining the tickets do say ‘Very Restricted View – Due to safety rail’, but they didn’t quite agree that that warning was a massive understatement and that the tickets should not be on sale in the first place – even at £10 a pop, student group rate. In the second half I was able to shift up a bit and my colleagues went to stand at the back, so we actually got to see Jude Law for the first time, and very good he was too – a nicely straightforward performance, unfussy, heroic, moving and, in the wooing scene, very funny.
Unfortunately however I suspect these tickets, and their equivalent the other side, are still being sold, and I’m only talking about eight seats per performance lost, if they were not. I’ve boasted in the past about how the West End, unlike in other countries, does have affordable seats on offer even for sell-out productions, which means even the least well-off among us can share in the excitement. But this is, frankly, taking the p***.