The Arts: Just the ticket

There are a few who want 'Plenty', some big 'Cats' fans and many who want to catch the 'Starlight Express'. But for real theatre, you could simply watch the queue at the half-price ticket booth in London's Leicester Square

Leicester Square half-price ticket office, Monday 19 July

Each day at around 11am, tourists begin to congregate at a kiosk on the southern side of Leicester Square. There is a tangible sense of anticipation along the slowly forming queue. The half-price ticket booth sells discounted seats for many of the West End's musicals, shows and plays. By 11.30 the queue is four-deep, even though the booth will not open its shutters until noon. The queue divides broadly into two classes: the young (tanned, tattooed, noisy) and the over-50s (calm, weathered, greying). But what they all have in common, is a voracious appetite for theatre: some of those waiting have managed to pack in five or six plays in one week; all of them put taking in a show near the top of their must-do lists while in London.

While some fumble to unfold oversized maps of London attractions and talk quietly among themselves, others studiously examine London listings magazines. Many are here from the United States for a holiday of two weeks or less; preferring the quick-fix of the city to the apathy of a beach closer to home. One young British businessman in a dark suit sticks out from the crowd as sorely as the proverbial thumb. He says that he is here for "real" theatre: the others, unconsciously, provide it.

Katya Keil (21) and Stefan Keil (25)

Katya is studying in London for five months: Stefan is visiting from their home town in Germany. "We want to see Phantom of the Opera," says Katya. "I've read a book on it. We want to see a musical just because we're in London. But I like best wandering in Covent Garden, people-watching."

Phil Marrandette (32) and Barbara Cochrane (40)

Barbara is in London for ten days with her boyfriend Phil. They live in Boston. "We're going to go and see Rent, and if we can't get that, we'll see Phantom. I was going to try and see Rent in the States, but there's more time when you're on vacation."

Christina Brooks (27)

Christina has come into town by train from Hertfordshire on a day off from work. She is hoping to be able to get a ticket for Art - "I am hoping it's still on, it's got Frank Skinner in it," she says - or failing that, she would also be quite happy to see Rent.

Mirko Ludwig (22), Rene Moersheim (27), Britt Oehme (22) and Inga Tholen (24)

Mirko, Inga, Britt and Rene are from Berlin and Aachen, Germany. It's the last night of their holiday here, and they aren't too bothered about what they see. "Whichever show is available," says Rene. "Phantom of the Opera or Starlight Express maybe."

Natalie Noel (21)

Natalie is from Brittany, France. She has come to London for the weekend and spent the morning wandering around Docklands. She's bought Time Out, but she and her companions haven't yet decided what to see. "My friends want to see a musical but I've already seen Cats and Phantom."

Lesley Ferris (51), Martina Mai (10) and Phoebe Ferris (15)

Lesley, from Columbus, Ohio, is here with her daughter and her daughter's friend from Italy. Ms Ferris, who has lived in London and gave birth to Phoebe here, is queueing for tickets to Beauty and the Beast. The trip is "to indulge Martina". In the last month alone, Lesley has queued here six times.

Jill Trowbridge (30) and Debbie Eastwood (49)

Jill, from Columbus, Ohio, and Debbie from Phoenix, Arizona, met two years ago at work. They are in London for a week and tonight they hope to see Rent, although Jill's already seen it. "Last year I got cheap seats up in the balcony, so I want to get a bit closer as it was fantastic and energising."

John Chaney and Anne Chaney (both in their fifties)

John and Anne are here from Florida for a week's holiday. They're aiming to get tickets or Hay Fever, or maybe Whistle Down The Wind. Says Anne: "We like musicals and concerts, we don't normally go in for serious drama." John says: "That goes for me too."

Emma Barnsley (19) and her sister Caroline (18)

Emma has come from Lytham, near Blackpool, with her family to receive her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. They're still arguing whether to see West Side Story or Starlight Express. "We've been to musicals quite a few times," says Emma. "Phantom was my favourite. It was so dramatic."

Phil Owen (34)

Phil is a chartered surveyor who works nearby and goes to the theatre in London about once every two months. The last play he saw was Art. Today, he's trying to get tickets for David Hare's Plenty, starring Cate Blanchett. "It's the last week of the play, so that's why I'm here," he says. n

The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

    Email Designer

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Psychology Teacher

    £110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

    Food Technology Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week