I work in a big theatre in the West End of London, mostly as an usher / general Front of House but also on the bar. Ask me anything!

Proof confirmed by mods

Edit: I'm going to bed now but will check in in the morning for any stragglers. Thanks folks this has been fun! :)

Comments: 336 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

anakitenephilim348 karma

What percentage of the usher team are performers? I ask because I work backstage and I'd say 90% of our FoH team are disgruntled performers.

seneca1996252 karma

Your perception is definitely correct!

Allaboardthejayboat208 karma

Hope it's not too personal, but I'm curious how the pay looks? London is expensive af to live in.

seneca1996368 karma

Not great! Most people do this for the flexibility to do other things, like study or go to auditions, and proximity to the thing they love rather than the money.

dbfjqp93 karma

Do you go to auditions?

seneca1996165 karma

Not as many as I'd like!

alexsings152 karma

What the best way to get cheaper theatre tickets?

ecornflak199 karma

Not OP, but my tried and tested London process is to visit the theatre on the day of the performance and try and get returns.

It helps I’m usually after one seat, but I’ve gotten some very good seats at discounted prices this way in the past.

It also helps to scope out how to get there and possible dinner spots too

seneca1996241 karma

Yep, day returns are definitely a good idea. I haven't used it in a while but the TKTS booth in Leicester Square is something of an institution in terms of cheap tickets. You can get rush tickets or enter a ticket lottery with TodayTix as well.

KermitTheGrenouille125 karma

What's the worst show you've worked for?

seneca1996293 karma

We've had the same show for many years now but do hire out the theatre on our 'off' day, which tends to be 'An Evening with X' kind of events, and that generally brings in a 'non-theatre' kind of crowd who can be difficult depending who the person is. We had one with an ex-Footballer which brought in a lot of beery dads

pinkflyingcats18 karma

What show does your theater play

nrith18 karma

My guess is The Mousetrap.

CraigJSmith-Himself29 karma

Whilst the Mousetrap has been going for donkey's, a lot of West End theatres have had the same show running for years: Mamma Mia has been on at the Novello for over 10 years, for example.

nrith5 karma

That’s true, and from looking at the St Martin’s and Novello schedules, I don’t see anything like the “An Evening with X” shows that OP mentioned.

butineurope14 karma

I expect that sort of thing is advertised separately, as it's not really to do with the theatre. They're just hiring out the space.

seneca199615 karma

This. That or they are private / invited events.

Plugsocket12103 karma

Whats your advice to someone seeing a show for the first time? Any tips to have a better experience?

seneca1996295 karma

If you're going to splurge on the experience, the choice of seat is easily the most important thing. It's crazy to me that people spend silly money on merch, drinks etc and then sit up in the nosebleed seats - you're here to see the show after all! And use the bathroom in good time beforehand. Also, if there's something wrong (eg the seat is broken, someone around you is being loud etc.) please tell us while we can do something about it rather than after, we're here to make sure you have the best experience :)

doorknob101101 karma

What exactly did the Pet Shop Boys mean by "West End Girls?"

StyreneAddict196526 karma

Asking the real question. I've wondered for years. Loved the Pet Shop Boys!

Mark0000040 karma

Afaik West end (Girls) are the rich from West London and East end (boys) are from the poor East part of London.

findingthescore4 karma

The east part being where the river is nearly uncrossable?

Lisbian13 karma

Most bridges in London are north-south, and most of east London is above the river. The east is just traditionally poorer more working class. In the UK most working class and poorer areas of big cities are situated in the east because in the industrial/Victorian era the smoke from the factories etc would always blow east due to the prevailing winds from the Atlantic, so the rich people would simply move to the west part of the city to avoid it.

kujifunza88 karma

What's the hardest part of your job that you wish more patrons knew?

seneca1996222 karma

There's a lot more bodily fluids than I was anticipating, mostly vomit. Children eat a lot of sweets / ice cream and get overstimulated by the show and... vomit. Happens about once every 1-2 weeks I'd say depending on how many young families are in.

ahappypoop51 karma

Mostly vomit?

seneca1996148 karma

Yeah, kids (and, very rarely, elderly people) sometimes have accidents of other kinds. It is what it is. Management are quite good and say that we're not paid enough for that and to radio for them to come deal with it.

Minotaar79 karma

That seems not common for management. Good on them.

seneca199643 karma

Yep, been blessed with good bosses here luckily. Mostly managment (as in the people in charge of FOH/Bars not the real higher ups above them) are people who have worked up from our jobs which I find makes them way more understanding. In previous hospitality jobs the worst managers are usually the ones who have never done the job themselves.

Not-original79 karma

Do they still have ice cream vendors at intermission?

seneca1996158 karma

Yeah absolutely, that's quite often me. It's fun, apart from when there's school groups and you have thirty kids queuing with £20 notes and a very limited pot of change

Zkenny1341 karma

This seems like something the school should set up on advance.

seneca199667 karma

Some schools are better at forward planning than others

GeeTeeUK68 karma

What’s the worst customer you’ve had to deal with?

seneca1996182 karma

We had someone who we had to throw out as they were vaping in the auditorium. They accused us of racism and started getting lairy so the police had to get involved. Other than that customers are usually quite well behaved really

gravysson65 karma

What's the craziest thing you've seen back stage?

seneca1996177 karma

The worlds of front of house and backstage don't mix too much but from what I can gather it's really a quite boringly professional environment. Actors are like anyone else really, they want to come in, get on with the people they work with, do the job and go home!

Hereibe49 karma

What’s the story you’re dying to tell from your job but no one has asked a question relevant to it yet?

seneca1996105 karma

We found a bra in the auditorium the other day. Hopefully it just fell out of an overnight bag but who knows.

Hereibe36 karma

What type of bra? If it was sticky or strapless those babies have a mind of their own and sometimes choose betrayal.

If it was where the actors are, then totally 100% fell out of someone’s bag. I used to stash extra street clothes in mine.

seneca199677 karma

It was in the upper balcony, no pun intended

boftr48 karma

Has the show ever had to stop? If so why? Thanks.

seneca1996121 karma

Yeah it happens every now and then. Usually it's a technical issue that seems to be resolved after a five minute pause, but sometimes it's something to do with the cast. Someone tore a ligament and had to be taken to hospital and we waited 25 mins whilst the understudy was rushed through costume and makeup. The show must go on!

supermav2744 karma

Have you ever met an usher who worked Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap”, who was hellbent on getting revenge because of how the play was loosely based and profiting off of personal childhood trauma?

seneca199612 karma

Not so far !

sametrical42 karma

What are your go to theatre snacks and drinks?

seneca199692 karma


rupesmanuva41 karma

What are the hours like and how's your commute?

seneca199691 karma

Commute is about 45 mins door to door if I'm lucky with the tube. Generally 35hrs per week but can pick up more to do other things around the theatre eg receiving deliveries. I like not working a 9-5 but it's hard to have a social life when you work most evenings and Monday-Tuesday is your weekend.

MrEvil197930 karma

Who was the most entitled person you had to deal with (audience or staff)?

seneca1996131 karma

VIPs are dealt with by a special team so I imagine they have better stories to tell about entitled rich people / minor celebrities. We have quite a strict latecomers policy, so if you miss the start of the show, we're going to hold you for about 10-15 mins until there's an appropriate break to bring you in, and that often gets up the nose of people who are already stressed, so people quite often turn that on us and get angry, demand to be taken in absolutely right now. Had a few people threaten to take legal action to get a refund. In terms of staff, the owner of the building is known to fire staff on the spot for trivial things (leaning, chatting quietly with colleagues when there's not much to do etc) but he doesn't actually have the authority to do that so management just tell people to hide for the rest of the shift if that happens

69Centhalfandhalf30 karma

Any positive/negative interactions with someone notable?

seneca199682 karma

I'm told Ryan Gosling left his private box a right mess

MusclePuppy29 karma

What's your favorite fringe benefit of the job?

seneca1996114 karma

It's always nice when sweeping the auditorium to find someone has left a bag of unopened sweets or snacks. Also having the daytime to myself on non-matinee days.

69Centhalfandhalf28 karma

Is it possible to sneak in during intermission?

seneca199680 karma

Could be possible if security aren't paying attention, but even on 'quiet' days we're pretty near full so finding an empty seat without drawing attention to yourself would be a task. There also seems to be a lot less smokers nowadays so there are fewer people coming in and out during the interval for you to hide amongst

elisabethofaustria27 karma

What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? (If any.)

seneca199647 karma

Julius Caesar (of the ones I'm familiar with)

johntwoods26 karma

Did you find a pair of readers the other night?

seneca199627 karma

All the time! Although more often lost property is hats, gloves and water bottles

SerendipityCake25 karma

Do you know why the boxes cost so relatively little when as far as I know they used to be much more expensive? Went to my first show on West End a while back and snagged a box and was stunned by how cheap it was.

I know the view isn't *the best* but man was that a comfortable theatre experience.

seneca199645 karma

I'm not sure. My guess would be that mostly it's that the view tends to not be as great especially as in older theatres they aren't built with the current productions stage configuration in mind

DankyKang9121 karma

My wife will never allow me to move to better seats after intermission as she is scared about breaking the rules. I feel that's more than enough time to assume the seats aren't filled, and moving during intermission will ensure no one is disturbed during the show.

Would you ask us to move if you realised, or not care?

seneca199639 karma

Really I should say you shouldn't but realistically I'm unlikely to notice or care. There are way too many people for me to clock where specific people are, but if the people around you notice and bring it to our attention we'll ask you to move back. Honestly, unless you're rude about it or refuse to return that will almost definitely be the end of the issue so it's up to you if you can tolerate that bit of embarrassment

scrubbar20 karma

Where the best place to sit if you've got long legs?

seneca199650 karma

A tricky one, old west end theatres are not known for legroom. As a fellow tall person I know your struggle. For our show at least I would advise against the stalls if you were looking to get an aisle seat and stretch out as the actors run through the auditorium a lot and we have to tell you to keep them in. aviewfrommyseat.co.uk is a good resource when booking

benzdabezben18 karma

Have you ever met James McAvoy or any other big-name actor who are into plays? I almost caught up with him after Cyrano de Bergerac around Dec 2019. I wanted to shake his hands or something. To be honest I forgot where this was

seneca199631 karma

I wish, he's definitely a personal hero of mine. No one in our show is famous apart from amongst hardcore musical theatre stans, but just being around central London / theatreland you see celebs milling about every now and then

MissAmericanDream8618 karma

Do you like your job or do you want to do something else in the future (maybe acting, music etc)?

seneca199668 karma

I don't mind it but no one wants to do this forever. Like most of my colleagues, I'm an aspiring (and occasionally working!) actor but I am getting disillusioned with the whole game really. As wonderful a spectacle as big budget West End shows are, seeing it day after day really grinds into you that art very easily becomes commerce

mehs16 karma

I'm visiting London for the first time this week. Any recommendations on shows to see for a first timer?

seneca199640 karma

It really depends on your tastes. Sadly you've just missed Come From Away which imo was the best thing in the commercial theater sphere. If you want West End spectacle at it's best, Phantom of the Opera, the Lion King or Les Miserables are unbeatable classics. I enjoyed the Lehman Trilogy when it was at the National but I'm not familiar with the theatre it's in now, if you were looking for a play.

Not-original15 karma

What does being an usher at the west end pay?

seneca199628 karma

Not much. Pretty much the same as working in a pub or as a waiter, but with a lot more downtime.

dexidrone13 karma


seneca199617 karma

Not too often luckily but yeah if there's a situation that could become aggressive it's always good practice to have colleagues around

kujifunza12 karma

What codes do you and your team have, and what do they mean? (Code red, code black etc.)

seneca199630 karma

That would be telling! But we do regular drills and have quite thorough procedures in place for most things you could think of including active shooters etc

Smokey_Katt12 karma

What got you into ushering? Is it like farming, passing through generations? Or more a whim?

seneca199622 karma

Needed a job in order to not die (thanks capitalism). I like talking to people and working on my feet and I'm not qualified to do a lot else. I'm a semi-working actor and it's nice to be around others who are the same (90% of my colleagues are performers of some kind) and to still feel a part of the industry in some small way in my money job. I don't think anyone wants to do this forever.

Mikerochip11 karma

What's the best piece of advice you can give someone going for the first time?

seneca199635 karma

Have fun! It's not a night at the Opera so don't fuss about what you wear and don't feel intimidated, but also you aren't at home watching TV and there are other people around you so don't relax too much! :P And remember the staff is there to help you and there is no question or request too stupid because we've heard it all before, probably that day.

PeanutSalsa9 karma

What do you like about the job and what do you not like about it?

seneca199626 karma

The work is really very easy and there's a lot of downtime if you're not sitting in on the show, which is good and bad. I do enjoy watching the show as it's interesting to see what slight variations there are day to day, what different understudies bring to the roles, what effect the audience has. Being in the room when the show ends and the mounting tension is broken and the audience clap and cheer and get on their feet is still a special moment. But ultimately the performers are remarkably consistent and the show is so slick and well-drilled that it doesn't vary very much, and some bits that are just pure exposition are a real drag when you are seeing it for the hundredth time. And picking up other people's rubbish is never a high point of my day.

LensPro9 karma

Have not been in a while, did they finally been smoking?

seneca199625 karma

You really haven't been in a while, it's been at least 15 years since you could smoke in public indoors anywhere in the UK. I'm not sure what the rules are about actors smoking on stage but I'm pretty sure it has to be herbal cigarettes or an e-cig

anunsuspectingspud9 karma

did you ever have to argue with people about their seats?. and if so what was the worst argument you endured

seneca199621 karma

Thankfully I find people tend more to get embarrassed and flustered when confronted rather than argumentative

ben44458 karma

I like the username are you a stoic by any chance?

seneca199629 karma

You have to be to work with the public!

ricnilotra8 karma

how often do you catch people fooling around?

seneca199615 karma

Almost never but that's probably because we're more of a family show than one you might bring a date to

SnakeDoctor236 karma

What’s the scariest interaction you’ve had with a patron?

Which football club do you support?

seneca199611 karma

Scary probably not in the way you meant but we had a little boy choke on a boiled sweet when I was quite new and hadn't yet done first aid training. Never seen a mother just grab a child and haul them out of the room like a sack of potatoes quite like that before. Luckily a trained first aider was on hand in the foyer and everything was ok but it was all very sudden and was a real reminder of the responsibility we have for our patrons while they are with us.

Not a big football guy but I like to keep an eye on how AFC Wimbledon are doing.

rosanna_rosannadanna5 karma


seneca19966 karma

I haven't seen the Mousetrap and don't feel any great desire to, if only because I've had the ending spoiled for me already. Tourists are a huge part of our audience and I imagine that's the case for all of London's commercial theatre. Ultimately, it's the economics of the West End that productions have to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, which is why plays rarely get there or stay for long unless they are star vehicles. If you're going to go West End, go for a musical because you are guaranteed an entertaining feel-good spectacle. If you want interesting / challenging / artistically worthy plays, I'd go elsewhere.

cardiffboy223 karma

Have you ever caught anyone having sex ?

seneca19968 karma

Nope. I've barely ever even clocked anyone kissing

Mediocremon9 karma

Please don't punch people for kissing.

seneca199648 karma

I don't tell you how to do your job

OddDirective2 karma

Hello from a fellow usher/FOH, it's been a treat reading all this. My question for you is, how's the building maintenance at your theater? Are there any chips in the paint/scuffed doors/marks on the wall that have been there forever? Figure I should know if that's standard-ish or if it's just at our theaters.

seneca19962 karma

It's ok but the cleaners definitely do a bit of a half assed job of the toilets some times. The place generally starts to lose it's shine when you spend so much time there. The carpets in the auditorium are beyond threadbare in places and could do with replacing. Staff areas are generally pretty scruffy compared to the bits customers see.