I say seat, but in most cases you share a bench with others, often having to squeeze up if the theatre has sold out. My last visit to my nearest regular haunt, the Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn High Road, resulted in me having to make room for the last audience member to arrive, the playwright Charlotte Eilenberg whose play "Shrunk" was about to start. The rest of the audience it appeared was made up of friends and family of the cast and production team because I was the only one in the audience Charlotte didn't know.
I explained that this was my nearest theatre and I came regularly. I also pointed out that as each production took over the space so the set got better. We now had a proper door as the main entrance to the stage where previously there had been a black curtain.
At the end I congratulated Charlotte on her play, a dramatic comedy about a woman visiting a pyschotherapist, who turns the tables on the usual patient/therapist relationship when she draws a gun. You can see what happens next if you make a date to see it before it completes its run on 12th June.
Last night I went to another favourite of mine, the Finborough Theatre in Earls Court. This like the Cock Tavern has a theatre space above the bar, although in this case it is more an upmarket eatery and wine bar rather than a traditional boozer. I saw a play called "The Man" by James Graham which is essentially about a young man trying to fill in his first tax form as a newly self employed worker. He enacts telephone conversations with Lisa, a woman from the Inland Revenue's help desk in Wrexham. Lisa is played by an actor sitting near the back of the audience.
He is trying to work out whether any of the receipts he has collected over the past year can be claimed as business expenses or not. The receipts themselves have been handed out to audience members randomly as they enter the theatre, so the order of the play will be unique for each performance as the man collects them back in one at a time and remembers the events which occurred to generate them. This is a bitter sweet comedy which is also extremely touching in places, and is another current production which is highly recommended.
Other regular favourite theatres are the White Bear Theatre in Kennington where I first came across The Good Night Out company which now runs the Cock Tavern Theatre, the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Gaisford Street in Kentish Town, The Southwark Playhouse (not so much a pub theatre but still on the fringe) and Hampstead's Pentameters Theatre, where I recently saw the Duchess of Padua, Oscar Wilde's almost forgotten and never previously seen tragedy.
So if you can't afford West End prices, or prefer to get up close to the action, look out for a pub theatre near you.