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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Going To The Theatre*

December 13, 2017

*But we’re too sloshed to ask, dear.

By West End Producer.
Publisher: Nick Hern Books.

All producers put on shows, some even put on shows in their own theatres. West End Producer now puts theatres on show. Think you know how to be an audience member? That you know everything about some of the most famous musicals ever – and the buildings they were performed in? How to address properly an actor? Then this sequel to the famous “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Acting (But Were Afraid to Ask, Dear)” will come as quite a surprise.

Prosecco fuels a long and mildly unsteady look at how to chose a show, select a seat, buy the ticket, pick an outfit, devise snacks, navigate the auditorium, deal with unwelcome behaviour (the “Theatre Prefect” scheme is genius), avoid lavatory queues… and most important of all, negotiate the bar at all stages of the evening, pre-show, interval and afterwards.

Every drop of advice is dispensed with trade mark wit, surprising insight and (not always entirely accurate, but incredibly credible) factoids. Even better, we are given the benefit of West End Producer’s deep inside knowledge of the business; there are some wonderful mentions of lesser known sources of theatre information, including my favourite discussion board.

Once past the technicalities of getting us, the audience, to the venue, further highlights include just how what we are seeing is put together. We learn what goes into a daily “show report,” and exactly what professionals call those flaps that help focus stage lights (and no, it isn’t at all what you’d imagine).

It’s also very much about people. Never forget that most working in that industry we call “Show” and they call “The Office” do so for love – as heaven knows there’s little money for anyone below the top. There’s a definitive list of jobs that need to be done, from Alternate to Wig Department, and WEP (as friends know him) urges that those we encounter on a trip are treated with the respect they deserve – a helpful Usher can help your evening go with an even greater swing than you can imagine, apparently.

Best of all, the irreverent parody reaches new heights. My own online West End theatre seat reviewing efforts are taken to a whole new level, way beyond anything I have achieved. And that is only by page 31.

Getting into his stride, there are breakdowns of many (in)famous shows, adding a whole new dimension next time you see one; plus great one-liners – making salient and valid (if not entirely sober) points – sprinkled throughout. His finale walk / stagger around theatreland, taking a look at the great buildings (and mentioning a few wonderful venues beyond the West End) is a landmark triumph of both writing and personal navigation skills.

A heartfelt epilogue reminds us that the arts are vital to reflect our humanity, and that those in charge of educating our children must never forget it. This book is a fine start to that process.

Proof that theatre love never dies, in a sequel for once living up to, even surpassing the original. So, for WEP’s latest effort, let’s bring those jazz hands together and make a noise with them – it’s called applause, dear.

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