For the past four years, I have regularly enjoyed theatre trips completely on my own; initially I had nobody to go with, or was too impatient to find someone willing to accompany me to shows I really wanted to go to. As an anxious fifteen-year-old, it was intimidating going to unfamiliar cities alone, but crucial for my appreciation of my own company and learning to be independent. Now, I’m a converted solo theatre-goer who appreciates the experience as a joyous thing in itself instead of a lonely, second-choice option. Learning to be comfortable on your own is a crucial life lesson, and theatre is a great way to practice. In London there will always be something to interest you, be it musicals, cinema, plays or Opera. This is why I will always love going to shows alone.
For a start, it’s easier to find inexpensive tickets if you’re only looking for one. If you’re not limited to searching for multiple tickets next to each other, the chances are you will find higher quality tickets for much better prices. This especially applies to last minute trips, which are just simpler to organise when you only have yourself to worry about instead of trying to find an available friend kind enough to indulge your random theatre urges (or is that just me?). Organising only yourself means freedom to leave as much or as little time as you like to get there (depending on whether you’re of an arrive-before-the-house-opens or squish-past-everyone-as-the-lights-go-down persuasion); it gives you the opportunity to eat as much ice cream as you like or cry all the way through without questioning looks from friends. You can see whatever weird thing you want, as much as you want, and nobody has to know. And what’s more, if you find yourself at a performance where they are giving out free mince pies in packets of two, as I did when I went to The Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol, you just might have an extra on your hands. Shame.
But most importantly, it doesn’t matter how many ice creams you eat or how much you cry whether you’re alone or not – how you choose to spend your time is your business and nobody else’s. Theatres are ideal places to practice not caring what others think of you; after all, nobody is watching! You’d have to be at a pretty bad performance for a stranger to care more about what you’re doing than what’s happening onstage. And if they do, that’s their problem. It’s essential to remember, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches, that you don’t need a date to justify doing something that you want to, or that would make you happy. Have you been waiting to book that show until you have someone to go with, or putting off going to see a play that you’re really excited about because someone else can’t get organised? Stop waiting! Go for it. Going to the theatre alone allows you to spend time in your own company. Learning how to be alone is one of the most important parts of learning how to be comfortable just existing in your own skin, and not feeling beholden to anyone or anything. It allows you to just be.
What makes any show a special experience is the connection that is forged between the audience and the performers onstage, a real-life, real-time connection that is totally unique to theatre. The collective experience of creating a story and travelling its journey together is unrivalled. This bond exists is created within audience members too; sharing a piece of theatre with a large group of strangers is a beautiful and unique thing that has helped me to banish countless unwelcome thoughts of anxiety and loneliness.
If you fancy taking yourself on a theatre date over the next month or so, there are plenty of shows to choose from in London’s West End and fringe theatres. For uplifting break-up bops, sisterhood and history go for Six at the Arts Theatre. For acceptance and fun try Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo. Come From Away is perfect if you need to restore your faith in humanity, or if you prefer to get your catharsis from dark, disturbing tragedies, there are plenty of those too. No judgement here.