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Debate: Do you prefer going to the theatre on your own or with company?

Is art best enjoyed with others or is there something special about solo theatre trips?

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

19 February 2015 at 10.00am | 37 Comments

Do you relish a night at the theatre on your own, free from distraction and able to immerse yourself fully in the production on stage? Or do you love the pre-performance build-up and post-performance discussion that comes when attending with friends?

Recently, the US National Endowment of the Arts surveyed 31 million people to explore the influences affecting attendance to the arts. One of the more surprising factors was that 22% were put off attending art events as they have no one to accompany them. For them, going solo may feel exposed, particularly if they’re not a regular gallery or theatre-goer.

Yet the solo theatre-goer does have much more freedom: they don’t have to accommodate the tastes – or diary – of another person, can make the most of last minute ticket offers, and may be more likely to fall into discussion with other audience members. Does the solo theatre-goer, like the solo traveller, get more from the experience from the virtue of experiencing the performance alone?

Ivan Hewitt in the Telegraph argues that art has to be a social event before the habit of private contemplation is possible. Indeed, it takes a certain amount of confidence, or passion, for solo theatre-going, both of which have to start somewhere.

We asked our social media followers what they think:

Which do you prefer – going to the theatre on your own or with others?
Is one more conducive to a fulfilling theatre-going experience than the other?

View the National Endowment of the Arts survey: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

19 February 2015 at 10.00am

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged access, debate, discussion, friends, National Endowment of the Arts, solo, theatre

This article has 37 comments

  1. Liza Johnson responded on 19 February 2015 at 10:53am Reply

    More often than not i come up for Ballet & Opera alone... The evening is never less of a social event for being on ones own.. I've spoken to some amazing, interesting and knowledgable fellow ROH friends and visitors over the years. Another 'plus' for going solo can be the opportunity to get great single seat availability. No-one should be put off attending such an event on their own... They won't feel it once the evening commences for certain.

  2. Nina Battleday responded on 19 February 2015 at 10:54am Reply

    Frequently go to theatres and galleries by myself. Enjoy it hugely,especially a gallery,or exhibition where you can go at your own pace. But am quite happy to go with friends if they want to join me.

  3. Kathy Boyce responded on 19 February 2015 at 10:56am Reply

    Used to see the ballet regularly on my own when living in UK, now I only visit England once a year and normally "go solo" to the ballet which is great, but also appreciate a night out with a friend (or a matinee performance) watching the ballet. Just would not want to miss seeing one whilst visiting!

  4. Laura responded on 19 February 2015 at 12:31pm Reply

    It depends where I go. I don't live in a city with much opera (and unfortunately some of that is extremely poor quality) so I travel, which means expense. This limits greatly who I can travel with, in terms of affordability and what I can go to see, so 90% of the time I travel alone. However I sometimes bring my mother. Its expensive either way. However I occasionally do find that international artists coming to where I live have ticket prices hiked so much its been cheaper to see the same thing and travel.

    Generally, to be honest, given my mixed taste, I tend to prefer going solo.

  5. Karen responded on 19 February 2015 at 1:05pm Reply

    If I waited for someone able to book 4 months in advance and able to pay the costs of an evening at the ROH and with my precise tastes, I'd see one performance every five years. I go it alone and pre-book a table and snacks to avoid having to "stand alone at the bar" trying to order during the interval rush.

  6. Vicky Hurst responded on 19 February 2015 at 1:27pm Reply

    I always go to the ballet and theatre on my own as none of my friends are interested in ballet or theatre. I would never let being on my own stop me from going and as I have found out there are many people who do go alone so I never feel out of place. Like Karen I pre-book a table for drinks and snacks in the interval and it feels like a real treat.

  7. Going it alone is great for the reasons outlined by Karen. I've given up on friends and family. The only bit I don't like is going it alone in the bar or restaurant, so tend to stay in my seat during the interval. I sometimes wonder if it would be possible to make an arrangement for those on their own to meet up and have a drink or snack together.

    • judy cornfield responded on 20 February 2015 at 11:07am

      I agree totally about being alone at a theatre event. At last year's John Wilson prom I ate alone in the RAH restaurant and felt v exposed as was surrounded by parties of at least 4 Thoroughly enjoyed the performance tho. John Wilson fans meet in concert hall bars but have yet to find them! Good luck, Pam!

  8. Caroline responded on 19 February 2015 at 1:35pm Reply

    I regularly travel up from Wiltshire alone for the opera. I never feel uncomfortable, either within the theatre or at the bar, there are always plenty of others doing just the same. I usually end up chatting to fellow opera fans on the roof terrace in the interval

  9. Karen responded on 19 February 2015 at 2:20pm Reply

    I mostly go alone. Partly because I don't know enough people who like opera/ballet to accompany me to all the things I attend, and now mostly because I get very caught up in it and a) it's embarrassing if you're teary/snivelling as I frequently am, and b) I do not cope well with someone who disagrees with my take on the production/performers !:)
    It would be nice to go with others more though if only to enjoy the bar more in the interval (not that solitude stops me....)

  10. Karen responded on 19 February 2015 at 2:22pm Reply

    I should add that I've had some very jolly evenings meeting complete strangers also visiting solo. Ships in the night etc.

  11. I love going on my own. I originally began going alone, because no one could go with me. It is stress free, and I like being independent. But sometimes I want people to hear a particular singer or concert or opera. I want them to hear it so much! I recently brought several varied friends to a series of recitals of a favorite performer. I heard through their ears and brains. It was so different. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes not. Some of these friends were musicians, some musicians of a different discipline, and two had never been to a recital of this kind before, and one of these newbies will attend an opera with me later this month .

    It was completely interesting to me.

  12. Sasha responded on 19 February 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

    I've been going to theatre, cinema and galleries alone since I was 15 years old.
    I'm now 19. I always feel uncomfortable when I'm with someone else - mainly because all of my friends dislike arts and opera. It feels like I have to put in 100% effort to please the person I'm with, and not please myself.
    I also love going alone because I do concentrate more on what I'm seeing. I think "I'm here for a reason: because I love art, so concentrate!!"

    (I'm a pisces - easily distracted!)

  13. Missy Show responded on 19 February 2015 at 2:50pm Reply

    Either is good. If you don't like the show you can't necessarily leave early though. If you are alone you also can drink as much champers as you want without looking stupid although of course you need to be able to walk out of the opry house. Haha!

  14. Santhya responded on 19 February 2015 at 4:07pm Reply

    i love going solo. It allows me to be more involved in the production without worrying abt whether or not my companion is having a good time.

  15. Stephen ratcliffe responded on 19 February 2015 at 5:04pm Reply

    I do both but always comfortable on my own and always find someone to chat to.

  16. Melanie Jacobs responded on 19 February 2015 at 5:36pm Reply

    going to the ROH is always a special treat which I prefer to share with a like minded friend. We always book a table for drinks and dinner in the Paul Hamlyn Hall and make it into a big event. I rarely go on my own but, if I do, it would always be a matinee.

  17. Janet Gillies responded on 19 February 2015 at 6:28pm Reply

    I enjoy either but on a solo trip like to arrive early, have a couple of drinks and enjoy the ambience of the place.
    How lucky we are to have such talent in a magnificent building.

  18. Marge Seibel responded on 19 February 2015 at 9:07pm Reply

    If I go by myself, I can get a better seat and I often have an interesting discussion of the performance with a stranger. Plus I am more aware of my surroundings when I'm not conversing with a friend. I pay attention to fabric textures, on stage and off, as well as listening for different languages in the audience. If I go with a friend, I have a blast.

  19. Graham Thomas responded on 19 February 2015 at 11:43pm Reply

    Have enjoyed going to the cinema on my own since I was a child and in occasions now still prefer opera or theatre by myself. I definitely choose some things to see on my own - Shakespeare - and others I throw out to friends - but really enjoy going on my own to be honest!

  20. Ian Saxton responded on 20 February 2015 at 8:36am Reply

    i much prefer to go with someone and so I always buy two tickets. This way I've introduced lots of friends to opera who would probably have not gone themselves otherwise. Many of them have gone on to be opera attenders themselves, which is a win-win scenario.

  21. Coppelia responded on 20 February 2015 at 4:13pm Reply

    One of the great things about this city is that Londoners don't care if you go to stuff alone. If I see someone by themselves at the Opera/theatre/cinema I respect that they are putting their interest and passion for the arts above what others will think of them; doesn't mean they aren't social people. Sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do to feed your soul. A solo trip to the opera house without the need to make interval small talk is restorative, everyone should try it! Having said that, it is nice to share your interests sometimes and the recent Live online screenings of ballet/opera via the ROH youtube channel have been a fun way of doing so. More please!

  22. Kate Flinn responded on 20 February 2015 at 6:06pm Reply

    Like many others above I tend to fly solo from necessity - I don't live in London so can't ask others less addicted to payout for a ticket, train fare and overnight accommodation! Not much change from £400 for a single night out might work for me (and then there's the JK premium!).
    Like others I don't mind sitting alone and have never found any of the opera venues/ cinemas at all unwelcoming in atmosphere BUT a) it would be nice to chat at the long interval about one's thoughts (I also cry a lot on occasion so maybe share a hanky too) and b) it is sad to know that others are put off by going solo. Organisations like Friends of the opera house tend to exist as a social mechanism of support for the arts from those who can afford it.. all very welcome...but perhaps there is a need for Friends of Friends of the opera house to encourage or support us singletons? Though I seem to recall the Met had a proper 'singles' night with limited success (mind you, if you can get JK there it would be a sell-out :)

  23. Maria responded on 20 February 2015 at 7:41pm Reply

    Do we see a pattern here? Many people commented on how nice it would be to get people together during the interval... Even though I rarely come alone to the ROH I would also love to meet other people, maybe it's as simple as having the bar staff place all the selected orders in a designated area... We could call it the "social" or "networking" corner not just for singles :-) I have already suggested this to Friends, maybe if there were a few more requests it would get done? I can also bet that we would be very successful with the younger crowd.

  24. Dana responded on 20 February 2015 at 9:56pm Reply

    When contemplating art, we forget our companions, sometimes even ourselves. Afterwards, we seek the thoughts of others, to help form our own.

  25. karenb responded on 20 February 2015 at 10:15pm Reply

    I used to come to every ballet production with my mum, but now she is very elderly I usually come alone. I've never felt out of place as there's always someone to talk to and it's interesting to hear other people's thoughts about what we are watching. I like the fact that I don't have to worry about whether a companion is enjoying the performance and can absorb myself totally. I agree with the comments about interval times - it would be nice if there was a meeting point that singles could go to.

  26. Lablady responded on 21 February 2015 at 7:59am Reply

    How fortifying to realise how many others attend the Opera and Ballet alone. I had no idea. Although I do attend with friends, I often go alone usually because I am so desperate to see something (or a particular artist) that I seize the chance and go. I totally agree that I have never felt awkward either taking my seat or sipping a glass of wine during the interval. And I do not know the rather glamorous lady's name who at last week's evening performance of ONEGIN left her own rather jolly party in search of a chair for me in the Paul Hamlyn Hall. A HUGE thank you to you for showing such kindness to a stranger. PS I am not disabled or old, she was just being thoughtful! I love the idea of even an unofficial gathering spot in the bar for those attending solo.

  27. Heather Willson responded on 21 February 2015 at 6:18pm Reply

    Great to read all the opinions on solo versus not. I now live in Sweden so often arrange visit to mother with trip to ROH - lucky to have opera buddy in London. Prepared to go solo also as so passionate about opera, and he doesn't like Wagner.Sometimes pay for my daughter as we are quite small so can sit in amphitheater seats.
    Agree wholeheartedly with the idea of an area to meet other singles for a drink in interval.

  28. Heather Willson responded on 21 February 2015 at 6:25pm Reply

    Would like to add- I think Coppelia's comment about "feeding the soul" is wonderful. Also, would it be possible to arrange some sort of "opera buddy" system via the ROH website? I would like to meet people who are as interested in opera as I am. We have a great opera house in Gothenburg too if any opera lovers wanted to visit

  29. I am very happy and comfortable coming on my own and have been doing so since I was a Young Friend in the 70's. Have never felt Ill at ease though intervals can be a bore so the suggestion of a "social" area in the bars would be great.

  30. Bumble responded on 22 February 2015 at 5:58pm Reply

    Like many others I usually go to the ballet solo because of expense and flexibility. I love going alone and have never felt awkward. I would be very interested in a place to meet in the interval just to mingle and share ideas if you're in the mood. A great suggestion. ROH, over to you on this?

  31. Carol responded on 22 February 2015 at 7:50pm Reply

    I've been coming to the RoH on my own for several years - necessity rather than choice, but life is too short to miss wonderful ballet. I tend to be completely immersed in the performances so I'm unaware of people around me. But like others have said the intervals can be tedious without someone to share the joy of the performance. A gathering spot would be lovely for those of us attending alone.

  32. DavidB responded on 24 February 2015 at 8:15am Reply

    Both, in my case - depends on what it is. Wagner's Ring is a big ask, La Bohème much less so. Sounds selfish, but I find it distracting if the person I'm with is not entirely enthusiastic.

    As Coppelia has already pointed out, above, there's nothing strange about being seen alone at a performance in London. As a student many years ago, I joined the Philharmonia's "BAT" subscription series at the RFH. I looked like a student, had more or less the same seat for each concert, and was impressed with how friendly everybody was.

  33. John M. responded on 24 February 2015 at 8:13pm Reply

    If I go to an opera with anyone I end up worrying about whether they are enjoying themselves and the performance and that in turn has an effect upon my own enjoyment. I therefore prefer to go on my own. I can then give myself over to the performance. It would be good to share thoughts with other solo enthusiasts; perhaps the ROH should give some thought to this. Do I feel out of place on my own? Not at all! There are clearly many people on their own at every performance. Are there really people out there who find that odd?

  34. Paula responded on 27 February 2015 at 11:16pm Reply

    I always go alone. I don't know other people that have the same passion that I have to go so frequently to the opera and ballet. There should be a Club of the Solos at the ROH so that people could meet each other more easily!

  35. I usually prefer to go on my own. But it is also good in good company, and comparing notes.

  36. Cadogan West responded on 28 May 2017 at 12:08am Reply

    I live in Northern Ireland, by Strangford, no opera house, theatre or concert hall so TV/DVD would be my only hope of seeing an opera. I think the BBC need to start to relay opera and classical concerts on TV as they do in Austria.

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