4 Theatre-Going Tips for People With Poor Eyesight

Theatre is back in full force, with West End theatre attendances at 16.4 million in 2022 – a seven per cent increase from 2019, even though average ticket prices have risen by £2.21 since that year. From classics like Les MiserablesandMoulin Rougeto modern favourites likeHamiltonandThe Book of Mormon, there’s a production for everyone. However, for the over two million folks with some degree of sight loss and twenty million with refractive errors like myopia, it may be challenging to see stage performances clearly. Thankfully, the industry has made accommodations for those with vision issues, so you can easily make adjustments to your theatre routine for the sake of your eyes.

Here are a few tips to enjoy your theatre-going experience.

Search for special seating

Many buildings in the West End are old, with some dating back to 1812, making them notorious for poor accessibility. Theatre owners and managers are doing what they can for those with mobility, hearing, and vision issues. Before booking tickets to a performance, check if the theatre has assigned Low Vision seats. These may be subject to certain requirements, so it’s best to contact the ticketing office well ahead of time.

Wear assistive eyewear

As ideal as it would be to secure seats that promise the most visual comfort, ticket demand and budget constraints might make this difficult. Therefore, avid theatre patrons should consider investing in specific eyewear that provides clarity for long distances, such as varifocal lenses that contain three ‘portions’ of vision within a single lens. With long-distance vision at the top, reading at the bottom, and intermediate vision in the middle, these specialised lenses allow the wearer to see at all distances with the same pair of glasses. This eliminates the need to swap between pairs for your next matinee. GlassesDirect’s Varifocal Advanced lenses provide excellent performance for long-distance vision alongside a large reading area. This lets you soak in every detail of the stage and skim through your programme before the curtains go up.

Invest in binoculars

For a small fee, binoculars may be available in most of London’s West End theatres. However, availability isn’t guaranteed, so you may easily find yourself without a pair should the house be packed or if others have beaten you to them. As such, if you watch multiple shows per season, it may be worth investing in a quality pair of binoculars. For example, the Guide Sensmart Normal TN binoculars series comes with a 400 x 300 @17μm detector and optional 35/50 mm lenses for improved visibility in dark theatres. With adjustable pupil spacing of 60-70 millimetres, you can avoid the discomfort that typically comes with using binoculars for a long time. Plus, all the buttons of the series are raised, so you won’t have to fumble while adjusting settings. Even with the right eyewear, you may want to take advantage of having your own pair of binoculars for an even more enhanced viewing experience.

Attend captioned performances

In and outside of London, the Stagetext charity provides live subtitling on a large screen for select performances. Those with poor vision can gather further context on what’s going on onstage with the help of these captions. Other venues offer assistive listening experiences and even access to a service that sends captions straight to your smartphone. Again, it’s important to check with the theatre ahead of time to check availability and device compatibility.

Previously, we talked about the importance of supporting playwrights and new works by attending their live performances. If you love stage performances, vision conditions shouldn’t necessarily impede your access to them. As we wait for more venues to improve their accessibility features, these tips can help you make the most of your next theatre experience.

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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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