Wednesday, August 10, 2011


As I mentioned in my reviews so far, I'm a bit emotional about West End. Tears-all-over-my-face-just-by-the-sound-of-the-overture emotional. But even so, I still love Finnish theatre just as much.
Because you're reading my blog, you'll probably squee in joy when I tell you I'm going to explain my opinion with a longer-than-life-itself comparison of the theatre etiquettes of Finland and West End. I wish to amuse, educate and/or ramble until you fall asleep.
Let's begin.

The tickets
You can get print tickets easily in Finland, but I almost always buy my tickets from a supermarket in my town - a habit that stuck with me from the time I didn't have an online bank account. The market has a combined desk for a tickets agency and a betting agency. The shop assistants change every time I go there and none of them can use the ticket machine, so there's always a long line of angry gamblers squeezing their lottery coupons behind me. Still, I take my time. Plenty of it, because I usually have to repeat "Helsinki City Theatre", "it's not in Turku", "no, two o'clock" and "no, it's not in Turku" a few times during the process.
When going to London, I usually buy tickets to the shows I really want to see online. I know that I'd get them cheaper if I bought them after arriving London, but I'm a bit paranoid and want to make sure I won't miss something special. I visit tkts, too, it all depends on my obsession about the show in question...
So, I search all over the internet for cheapest tickets and wonder what's the deal with the rule of the ticket-selling websites that requires the owner of the credit card to pick up the tickets themselves. Not every box office checks this, of course, but for example in Ghost they actually wanted to see my friend's credit card the tickets were bought with. Why? If the person has printed e-mail confirmation and brought it with them, isn't it a clear enough sign that they own the tickets? I wish more West End theatres would adopt the print ticket system, it'd make everything easier...
As for prices: in Finland you can usually get stalls seats cheaper than West End, but then again, the worst balcony seats can be more expensive. So, though West End is more pricey in general, Finland isn't cheap either. Not counting the trips to there and back of course!

The dress code
I'm not a girly girl by any account. I don't use makeup, I haven't had long hair in years, I never wear dresses and only own one pair of heels. My formal attire consists of a pretty masculine jacket or two, some nice trousers and the huge amount of amazing, pretty knitwear my godmother makes for me.
So, in Finland, dressing for theatre is not a huge problem. Well, my mother does not approve of me going to theatre in Converse All Stars, but if I'm going by train and am supposed to take a couple kilometers' walk from the station to the theatre, most often in the rain, snow or slush, I don't really want to ruin my good shoes. But as for my other clothing, I'll throw on some nice knitwear and don't really look radically different from the rest of the audience.
In the other hand, when visiting West End or Broadway, I always have problems. I like to pack light, both because the prices most airlines charge for extra luggage are insane and because I think I've much better things to do with my life than spend what feels like an eternity waiting for my bags to appear into the luggage hall. Also, much to my mother's dismay, I definitely won't be taking the heels on holiday - I tend to have a nicer time with all toenails intact.
As a result, in winter I don't usually bother with the knitwear but wear an ugly but warm and practical fleece jacket, especially if I go to the theatre straight from the city without popping in the hotel first. Then I feel horrible in the theatre, even in the Tourist Balcony I always find myself sitting in, because everybody else seems to wear something nicer than me. That's why I, last winter on Broadway, tried to get a grip of my wardrobe and dressed sharply with a necklace, a nice shirt and all... I felt mortified again: everybody around seemed to be wearing their fleece jackets. Maybe it's psychological, but I always seem to be doing the wrong thing.
In the summer I've a bit more space in my bag and try a tad harder, but it's still a thin line between too casual and too formal, and I haven't quite learned to balance on that line yet. It doesn't help that I've a tendency of spilling various sauces and blood on my fancy clothes and have to rely on mundane shirt-shorts-and-sandals combinations from time to time. I've kind of solved my problems by wearing the t-shirt of the musical in question to it whenever possible. Maybe it's not really according the dress code to wear a t-shirt at all, but you can't really fight the logic of honouring Les Misérables with a Les Mis t-shirt, right?

The theatres
Here are some West End theatres:

Here are some Finnish theatres:

See what I'm trying to say?
There are expections to this rule in both places - not every West End theatre is gorgeous, and some Finnish theatres, like Åbo Svenska Teater and National Theatre, have a lovely old-fashioned look. But, as a whole, Finnish theatres are built during that unfortunate period of the latter part of the last century when the cool thing, architechturally, was to lay boxes of different sizes and materials on top of each other.
Even so, I'm ready to admit Finnish playhouses are usually more practical than their West End counterparts. They've more leg room in the auditorium - in West End I often get the feeling I'm sitting in a plane, in economy class -, they have big, proper cloakrooms, their restrooms have more than two stalls each, the foyers are less crowded... Finnish theatres may not be pretty, but they do their job beautifully.

The customs
When I first went to see a West End show (that first one being Grease) I was thoroughly confused by the people drinking beer and eating ice cream in the auditorium. Around here, you don't. If you want to sip something during the intermission, you go to the bar in the foyer and get your overpriced champagne, but you simply don't bring drinks with you to the auditorium. Let alone ice cream. Couch drops might be okay.
I'm not sure which version I like better. The Finnish way makes going to theatre a bit more solemn and sophisticated, but then again, should going to theatre always be solemn and sophisticated? Why can't you have an ice cream while watching the events unfold onstage if you want to? (Well, if you're me, the answer's simple actually: because I'd spill it on my nice sweater.)
Unfortunately, in West End the jerks who check their cellphones during the show are more plentiful than in Finland. I'm strict with this - using your phone during the show is not okay. Your friends can wait. Your family can wait. Your dying grandma... What are you doing in the theatre again if that's the case? You simply don't use your cell during the show. Besides of wasting your own money by getting a ticket and not watching what's happening, you're annoying a whole auditorium full of other people, you selfish person. Also, putting the sound off of your various gadgets is not as hard as so many seem to think.
I don't go much into the wonders of the Finnish curtain calls (I already did at here), I just want to say that the West End and Broadway version feels a tad too short for me, a bit too harsh move into cold, solid reality after a night full of magic. By the time the audience is leaving in London, the main actor has just taken their first bow around here...

The experience
I love the both theatre-going experiences, the West End one and the Finnish one. The Finnish is what I usually have, so West End is a bit more exotic to me, but that's neither a pro or a con, just a fact. Both are amazing in their own ways.
I have to say, though... In West End my intermission hobby of people-staring is funnier than at home. That's partly because West End shows have so international and interesting audiences and partly because you can see some young people at West End. Finnish theatre seats are filled by silver-haired gentlemen and ladies: societies of seniors often invade the stalls on their weekend trips. I'm serious. The positive side is that I know what kind of society I'll join when I retire...

The theatre pictures are from various sources: Wikipedia, Finnish towns' home sites, Google Images... I own nothing.


  1. Kirjoitan ihan suomeksi koska englantini ei ole ollenkaan sinun tasoasi, mutta KIITOS näistä ihanista musikaaliaiheisista jutuistasi! Olen lukenut niitä usein ja useimmiten voin allekirjoittaa sanomasi niiden kappaleiden osalta joita itse olen nähnyt. Olen vuoisen ajan yrittänyt katsella mahd. monta musikaalia akselilla Hki-Tre-Tku-Lahti ja lisäksi tietysti Lontoossa 3-4 esitystä per käynti! Tämäkin "vertailusi" oli tosi hauska. Ihailen kykyäsi kirjoittaa sujuvaa englantia, jatka samaan malliin. Terv. toinen Les Miz -fani

  2. Anonyymi, suuri kiitos itsellesi - kehusi piristivät flunssaista päivääni juuri todella paljon! :)

  3. I like the wonderfully awkward conversations you can get into at West End theatre. I once had a conversation with a group of Scottish schoolkids at Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.