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The Albans Arena (St Albans)

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  • Inadequate Bar
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      20.07.2004 20:44
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      • "Inadequate Bar"

      The Alban Arena is a large entertainment venue in the centre of St Albans, which is in Hertfordshire, about 20 miles north of London. You might wonder why the residents of St Albans would need such a place, being as close as they are to the bright lights of the big city? But we?re a funny lot around here, we generally don?t like travelling into London if we don?t have to, and tend to prefer to have everything on our own doorstep. Well, that?s my thinking behind it, anyway! The Arena is ideally situated for easy reachability ? it really is slap bang in the centre of St Albans ? sat back in a small civic centre, just off the main road. There?s a multi storey car park to the rear of the building which is free outside of office hours. Buses stop all along St Peter?s Street, the road directly in front of the Arena, and whilst the train station is a fair walk away, there are always plenty of taxis on the station rank and the fare is very reasonable from train station to Alban Arena. You might wonder what kind of venue the Alban Arena actually is. Well, in layout it resembles a theatre, with an upper and a lower level, which between them are apparently capable of seating a maximum of 858 people in maroon, velvet chairs where the seat flips down, like the ones you get in the cinema. The Alban Arena is also accessible to wheelchair users, on the lower floor, and has specially built wide access toilets too. An Infra Red system is installed in the auditorium for the hearing impaired. The flip -down seats are removable, allowing for banquets or functions for up to 400 people, with the added benefit of a dance floor, if required. Three other areas of the arena, the main foyer, circle foyer and lower foyer are also available for small meetings or seminars. However, there are much more interestin
      g things than business meetings going on at the Alban Arena on a regular basis, believe me! The Arena closes annually during August every year, but in September and October they already have a feast of films lined up, including 50 First Dates, 21 Grams and the Passion of the Christ for anybody who missed these the first time around and still wants to see them on the big screen. The Arena shows some of the best comedy acts that are touring at any given time. Unfortunately, they?ve also got Jim Davidson lined up for a live show in September. Oh well, I suppose they can?t be expected to get everything right every time! Amongst the ?real? comedy shows that will be gracing the stage at the Arena in the near future are Puppetry of the Penis and Tony Robinson. Personally, I?d really like to see Puppetry of the Penis, I?m really intrigued by the idea of? Well, I?ll leave that to your imagination. For some reason my husband isn?t too keen on the idea of going to see it, can?t think why? If you fancy an evening of Culture, you can spend a ?night at the Opera? on the 18th September. But if you prefer your music a little more modern, then the Arena will also play host to Space and Vonda Shepherd during October, along with a 60?s night and a couple of tribute bands too. Local functions are also catered for at the Arena, including a Job Fayre and a Beer Festival in September (well, St Albans IS the Home of CAMRA, after all). The kids aren?t forgotten either, with regular entertainment especially for them during school holidays including shows called ?Humpty Dumpty? and ?Circus Hilarious?. The Arena does have a website - www.alban-arena.co.uk - and ticket prices are listed online. H
      ;owever it isn?t possible to actually order tickets online, you?ll need to make a phonecall, or pop into the arena in person. Disappointingly, the Arena have stopped sending tickets out in the post, it is now necessary to collect them in person from the box office. The last time I visited the box office to collect tickets the ticket machine wasn?t working, so I finished up with my ?tickets? written on a compliment slip? I must admit that this didn?t really fill me with confidence, but my husband and I were allowed in with no problems on the night, even with our unusual ticket. Personally, unless you live or work in St Albans town centre, I?d recommend getting to the venue early on the night of the event and collecting your tickets then. Yes, you?ll have to wait in line for a while to get your tickets, but parking in St Albans town centre during office hours is notoriously bad, and collecting tickets during the daytime can be a time consuming experience! Ticket prices are basically what you?d expect to pay, they?re certainly not unreasonable for the South of England. Although tickets to witness Jim Davidson?s live show are wildly extortionate at £17.50 per ticket, in my opinion. I wouldn?t pay 17.5 pence! Puppetry of the Penis and Tony Robinson?s show are £15.00 per ticket, which is a typical ticket price for a comedy show at the Arena. You can watch a film matinee for £3, or an evening showing for £5.50, which might seem expensive, but is about right for a cinema ticket in this area. Most tickets prices allow concessions for students, senior citizens, group bookings or for people on benefits, but it?s best to check with the box office before booking. The seating in the Auditorium is somewhat variable. Yes, the seats are all (or as far as I could see, at any rate) of the flip-down, cinema seat variety. However
      , whilst some of the seats looked to be relatively new with wide set arms and thick, comfy seat pads. Some of the older seats were real bum crunchers. Now, I have to admit that my bottom is not what you might call petite, but after a couple of hours jammed into one of these bum-crunching seats when I went to watch Dylan Moran live at the Arena recently, it felt like it had been compressed by at least a couple of sizes. Unfortunately, the rows of bum crunchers and comfy looking seats are scattered around the arena in what looks like a pretty random way, so it would be very difficult when booking to know if you were ordering a comfy seat or not. Still, for those of you with a bottom the size of a peach, you probably won?t suffer too much at any rate! Personally, I prefer the upper level of the auditorium, as I like to look down on the stage, rather than up at it? Hey, if I?m going to have a squished bottom when I leave the Arena, I really don?t want a cricked neck too! However, the upper level of seating is arranged in three sections. If you?re lucky enough to get tickets in the section at the back of the auditorium, then you?ll be facing the stage. However, the sections on either side look onto the stage sideways on (strange that, isn?t it!) so you might be advised to bear this in mind when booking, if you prefer to look your comedian straight in the eye! Downstairs the seats directly in front of the stage are all arranged an flat flooring. Towards the back of the lower level, however, there is a seating section that is arranged in the traditional way of the theatre, with seats staggered upwards, with the higher ones reached by stairs. The last row of this seating is only just in front and below the first row of the upper level, so I?d be quite happy to sit here, too! All in all, I really like the Alban Arena. Not just because
      they do have some really good acts there, but the place is comfortable (apart from the bum-crunchers) and clean and just has a nice atmosphere that I can?t quantify. Of course, the Arena is non-smoking, although Dylan Moran took great delight in lighting up a cigarette during his show and smoking it on stage to taunt the smokers. He then went on to take a swig out of his glass of white wine? And this is where the Alban Arena really loses points in my opinion? Not because they allow their comedy acts to drink and smoke on stage! Oh no, the reason that Mr Moran was taunting the audience with his glass of wine in the first place is because there is only one, tiny bar in the Alban Arena, which is totally incapable of serving drinks to everybody who would like them during the interval. Personally, when I saw the seething mass of bodies gathered around the bar, waving their £10 notes, I decided not to bother even trying to get a drink, which is a shame, as I was actually pretty thirsty ? it was a warm night to share one room with over 800 people, even if it was a very large room! Still, I would definitely recommend the Arena if you live in the area and would like a good night out, just be sure to sneak in your own drink in your pocket or handbag! (all ticket prices, forthcoming events and other factual information from www.alban-arena.co.uk )

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      • More +
        12.10.2000 15:16
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        Last night I went to the St Albans Arena to see comedian Ed Byrne (and support Ben Norris). After a slow start the comedians were both excellent !! But thats not what I wanted to comment on ! I wanted to mention the arena itself. The staff are very helpful, the refreshments are reasonably priced, it has a good selection of events to go to and has good parking. BUT...... The seats are sooooooooooooooooooooo uncomfortable !!!!! they are small, hard and very very close together. I would suggest taking a cushion with you. Also everytime I moved to try and be more comfortable the floorboard creeked loudly (an easy chance for a comedian to pick on you (luckily I was not targeted)) So, have a beer, buy and ice cream and enjoy the show But you will leave with a square A*se

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