Matilda the Musical moves start time to 7pm as audiences say they want to hit the town afterwards

Hannah Furness
Matilda the Musical - Alastair Muir

Matilda The Musical has broken with West End convention to bring its start time forward by half an hour, after audiences said they wanted more time to head to the bars of London afterwards.

Matilda, the Royal Shakespeare Company musical which is now at the Cambridge Theatre, has altered its start time to 7pm in response to its audience research.

More than 5,000 regular theatregoers were asked when they would prefer shows to start, with the significant majority of those responding selecting 7pm.

Just five per cent chose 7.30pm, the current start time for nearly all West End shows.

Asked for their reasoning, audiences gave three common explanations: arranging a babysitter, making it back to homes outside London on the last train, and having more time for drinks after the show.

Matilda,The Musical, a production from the Royal Shakespeare Company Credit: Alastair Muir

As a result of the study, weekday performances of Matilda the Musical will begin at 7pm from September onwards.

If successful, the change could set the model for other West End shows, with others including the National Theatre tending to opt for 7.30pm.

The study was undertaken by a “Culture Insight Panel”, made up of 5,226 result West End theatregoers who have previously completed audience feedback for shows.

Of the 1,021 completed responses, 41 per cent said an earlier start time would be “very attractive” and a further 30 per cent found it “quite attractive”.

Just four per cent were set on the status quo, while 14 per cent were “indifferent”.

Nearly a fifth wanted to see the start time brought an hour forward to 6.30pm, with the vast majority picking 7pm as the ideal compromise.

The West End

Summing up the anecdotal explanations offered for their choice, a spokesman said: “There would be more time to socialise after the show rather than rush home, allowing theatregoers to make the most of London’s vibrant bar and restaurant scene.

“For those who commute to London, it can be stressful to see a West End show if they are worried about missing their last train home.

“Parents said it would be easier to arrange a night out without their children if they could get home earlier and not worry about keeping a babysitter waiting up too late.”