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Theatremonkey.com is 10 TODAY!!!!

December 1, 2010

Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday the internet was a strange, new thing, and I nervously spent over 20 minutes uploading over a 56.6 dial-up connection a site I’d created using all the built-in tools of a borrowed web-making computer program.

Those first few months saw only theatre lawyers, a few web-indexers and friends dropping by. Then, in Spring 2001, Google found it and I got my first feedback email from somebody in Japan.

And now it is 10, and gets around 200 emails a week. And the site has had more millions of visitors than I’d have thought possible. And it has a book –I really didn’t think that was possible. And it is recognised as a trade mark in its own right – both weird and impossible to really understand. That little purple and beige (as all the type and hyperlinks were on day one) website is now a growing green and gold one.

Without wishing to sound too much like an “X Factor” contestant; actually, without wishing to sound at ALL like an “X Factor” contestant (or an “American Idol” one, for US readers), I can only say that it has been a journey.

There have been good days, a few great ones and even a few not so great. The greatest are when, out of the blue (and coincidentally and luckily often following a not so great day) I get an email from somebody who has never been to the theatre before, used the site, and had such a wonderful time that they want to go again… and again… and again.

Equally wonderful is hearing from so many regular readers. Before printing, Mr P commented on how long the list of credits was on the last page of the book. Little did he know that it was the mere tip of the iceberg – readers who didn’t mind having their first names posted alongside their comments. Had I listed every person who has contributed over the years, the slim paperback would have become a pretty huge encyclopaedia.

Things do change over the years.Theatremonkey.com itself is now around five times the size it was, and incorporates many pages of information the original couldn’t and didn’t. It’s gone through four visual updates, the next due next year (I hope). Keeping up with online developments in presentation standards is one thing, keeping up with the West End itself is an equal challenge.

The main things I’ve noticed about the West End over the last ten years have been an increase in production quality – they really do keep looking better, employing ever more talented (and sometimes internationally famous) actors, still take the occasional risk… and still employ front of house, backstage and in associated businesses, the most amazing people I’ve had the good fortune to get to know over time.

Audiences themselves have change a bit. Casting, and television cross-overs have brought new people into the auditorium; and it seems (to me at least) that the general demographic is shifting away from simply the elderly, to encompass a far wider range.

If I could undo one thing, it would be the rising ticket prices. “Special Offer” prices now can be as high as “full price” tickets were back when I started Theatremonkey. The insidious march of “premium” seats has lead to empty rows where once appreciative audiences sat. A case of a sensible move (releasing a few prized seats that the producer would have kept back for personal use) becoming a potential revenue stream for hard put producers, and then that becoming over-used as some distinctly non-premium seats are put out at eye-popping rates.

Still, no need to be gloomy in general. Next year the West End should see some great work opening, and the year after the 2012 Olympics should boost London’s profile. And theatremonkey.com? I hope there is still some life left in the little hairy theatre-nut who emerged onto the fledgling worldwide web at the dawn of the new century. It couldn’t, and can’t exist without an amazing bunch of people behind it, though; and it is they who will ultimately decide whether it keeps going…

… Who are these people?  Everybody who reads the site, buys the book, provides an opinion and simply keeps this monkey going. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.

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