Where Charity and Art collide
Subject to ticket
The theatre is a bit like going to Mcdonalds as a child: you’re happy to go because it doesn’t really matter what you’re going to get and someone is going to be impressed you went no matter what happened.
I enjoy the theatrics of going to the theatre. Firstly, It’s usually reserved for relatively special occasions and not every show is shown in every theatre. Furthermore, it’s usually at a weird time of day, meaning you usually have to go after work, but it’s at like 7 so you don’t have all that much time to get there, but you decided to go to one nearer your work, it means you have way too much time before the show starts.
So organising a trip to the theatre requires some degree of planning and is mainly based on opportunity, but if you found yourself making a trip to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, what should you expect to find?
Well the first thing you’ll find depends entirely on which door you enter. From one you will be greeted with the oasis that is the B2 bar, whilst the alternative entrance greets you with the in-house café. Now whilst the café is pitched as a leisurely, all day spot that you can turn up to without any reason, the bar appears to only be open near show times which is not an unusual practice. However, if you turned up on a random Tuesday afternoon wanting to catch a quiet drink, the Café Bar does promise to serve you.
Like any self-respecting mid-sized Theatre, Belgrade is two tiered with an upper level Bar open to those, on a show night, with a ticket to the upper level. Unfortunately I was not a Main Circle ticket holder and did not have access to the upper floors of the Theatre and as such I will be omitting the Burbidge Gallery and Bar and Patrick Suite from this review and I will not be referencing the B2 Balcony 2 theatre room either as it seems to be a separate stage altogether.
However, these omissions will not take away from my opinion of the theatre as my experience in the lower half, I feel is sufficient to base a review as it is where the most time will be spent.
Seating inside the theatre’s main stage, I am happy to report that there are no dreaded blind spots where your hard-earned ticket gives you prime viewing of a supporting post, or 3/4ths of a curtain. A part of this is down to the age of the building as it is built post WWII, but also it’s size which tops out at 858 people.
There’s clearly been a lot of thought that has gone into the size vs. capacity argument in the design of the main stage seating area. Now whilst the seats aren’t the most well cushioned or supportive, The smaller seats means that the seating arrangement does not need to be tiered at an extreme angle, meaning you can practically walk to your seat without a single step impeding you. In my experience and through the virtual tour available on the website, it’s clear that the thought of wheelchair access was a priority in this design.
However, wheelchair user or not, like I said earlier, the seat’s aren’t the most comfortable; so whilst there is excellent leg room even if you are taller than 6ft, it’s not enough to stop your bum from going numb or your lower back from cramping if it is particularly sensitive. Now this isn’t a fault specific to Belgrave- in my experience almost every higher-end/West End theatre suffers from this uncomfortable seating dilemma. In Belgrave’s defence, the seats do hold up well until the 40minute or so mark and then you begin shuffling.
So on my side note, I make this plea to any Auditorium designers out there: please make the seats more like cinema seats. Please do not rely on the fact that there is an intermission to make sub-comfortable seats. Thank you.
The auditory experience in the auditorium is probably the most important aspect of any performance, as no matter how far you are from the stage, you should always be able to follow the lines. Thankfully, Belgrade does a fair job of this, with a well worked and clear surround speaker system that left no dead zones in the feedback and allowed me to keep up with the pace of the play. In truth, it’s exactly what I expected, so whilst it’s not disappointing; I’ve not been wowed either.
The Belgrade Theatre does offer three hotels for you to stay at if you decide to plan your trip around two days in Coventry, and whilst the ‘Ramada Hotel & Suites’, ‘Hilton Hotels and Resorts’ and ‘Coombe Abbey’ each come in at different price points and proximity to the Theatre it is unclear if a discount is offered if you book your stay and reference Belgrade.
In the end, if you find yourself taking the time out to enjoy the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, know that I’m expecting you to have an enjoyable time. With a range of food and drinks available at the Café and Bar, your time here doesn’t have to revolve around the play. Instead, you can very easily make your trip to the theatre a social visit, one where the two of you can share your time together in relative comfort.
However, I’d fully recommend that the two of you maximise your time during the intermission- your behinds will thank you.
- A lovely and bright atmosphere, extenuated with the glass framework which wraps the building.
- No blind spots, whether that is visually or audibly.
- Easy to get around for Wheelchair users and those who hate stairs.
- Café offers hot and cold food, with drinks on tap too.
- An easy location to get to as it’s right on the edge of the town centre.
- Relatively small size means each showing has an exclusive feel- also means you’re not waiting forever and an age to leave once the performance has finished.
- Seating arrangement means you shouldn’t get vertigo just trying to look at the stage.
- That feeling of becoming a more cultured human being by simply being here.
- Uncomfortable seating.
- Limited access to parts of the theatre.
- Bar isn’t always open, so don’t try and substitute the pub crawl if you wanted a drink or two.