Making the Most of the Interval

The 20 minute interval at a West End show is an integral part of the theatre experience. But with limited time and often crowded spaces, how can you make the most of it? Here are some insider tips to help you navigate the interval like a seasoned theatregoer.

The key to a successful interval is preparation. Before the show even starts, take a moment to familiarise yourself with the theatre layout. Note the locations of restrooms, bars, and merchandise stands. This knowledge will save you precious minutes during the interval.

1. Beat the Rush to the Loo

As soon as the interval begins, decide quickly what your priority is. If it’s using the toilet, head there immediately. The queues form rapidly, especially for the ladies’ toilets. If you’re seated near the end of a row, consider making a swift exit as soon as the curtain falls for the interval. Those extra seconds can make a HUGE difference in queue length. If toilet queues are long, consider looking for facilities on other levels of the theatre. Upper levels often have shorter lines. Some theatres even have attendants who can direct you to less crowded facilities.

2. Pre-Order Drinks

Most theatres offer a pre-ordering service for interval drinks. Take advantage of this! Before the show starts, visit the bar and place your order. You’ll usually be given a numbered ticket. During the interval, you can skip the main bar queue and collect your drinks from a dedicated pre-order point. This is a huge time-saver and ensures you won’t miss out due to long queues.

3. Snack Smartly

If you’re peckish, consider purchasing snacks before the show starts. Many theatres sell small tubs of ice cream or packets of sweets that you can enjoy during the interval. This saves you from queuing at stands. Remember, though, to be considerate – choose quiet snacks and dispose of any wrappers properly. Or step outside the theatre, walk 50 yards to the closest newsagent, and save at least 50% of what you’d have to pay to the theatre!

4. Merchandise Matters

If you’re interested in buying show merchandise, the interval can be a good time – but be strategic. Popular items often sell out quickly, so if there’s something specific you want, consider purchasing it before the show. If you’re just browsing, wait until a few minutes into the interval when the initial rush has died down.

5. Stretch Your Legs

Theatre seats can be cramped, especially in older West End venues. Use part of your interval to stand up and stretch. A quick walk around the foyer or up and down a flight of stairs can help prevent stiffness and keep you comfortable for the second act. If you step outside, you’ll be given a ‘readmission ticket’ – don’t lose it. Some theatres rope off an area just outside the front entrance and discourage you from walking further afield. Be firm, and they’ll let you out.

6. Check Your Phone (Briefly)

While it’s crucial to keep your phone off during the performance, the interval is your chance to quickly check messages or make that essential call. But be disciplined – set a timer if needed to ensure you’re back in your seat on time. Remember to silence your phone again before the second act begins.

7. Stay Hydrated

Theatre auditoriums can get warm, especially during popular shows. Use the interval to rehydrate. If you didn’t bring a water bottle, most theatre bars have jugs of free tap water to the side of the bar.

8. Be Punctual

Always aim to be back in your seat a couple of minutes before the end of the interval. This not only ensures you don’t miss any of the performance but also shows respect for the performers and your fellow audience members. Most theatres will give a warning bell or flash the lights to signal the end of the interval.

9. Exclusive Experiences

Some theatres offer special interval experiences for premium ticket holders. These might include access to private lounges or complimentary refreshments. If you’ve splurged on top-tier tickets, make sure you’re aware of any such perks.

10. Mindful Reflection

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of simply sitting quietly and reflecting on the first act. Theatre is an art form that often benefits from contemplation. Taking a moment to absorb what you’ve seen can enhance your enjoyment of the second act. Remember, the interval is a brief window of time, and you can’t do everything. Prioritise what’s most important to you, whether that’s refreshments, toilets, or simply relaxing.