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Truly “Accessible” Ticket Prices?

February 8, 2017

Inspired by an online discussion at, where regular contributor Abby pointed out, “It’s interesting you mention the ROH/ENO as something that has always annoyed me is rich privileged people (not anyone here!) going on about how accessible opera is because the cheapest seats are £10 – they clearly haven’t ever sat in those seats if they think that’s a good way to experience opera, let alone dance. I’ve got to an age where it’s the best or second best seat or else I don’t bother because for me it’s just not worth being uncomfortable and frustrated in a lousy seat.”

I’d been thinking how to express that about theatre for ages, and I have to thank Abby for getting it out there so clearly. Quite simply, I think it really is all too often total rubbish about “making our show accessible to a wider audience” when the said “cheap seats” are going to provide an experience vastly inferior to the one those who can afford to pay for decent stalls seats are getting.

I always cringe when I see showbiz reporters trumpeting a potential starry hit that will be advertising “hundreds of £10 seats.” Sometimes, rarely, they are actually pretty good seats – ends of front rows or the back couple of rows of the stalls and dress circle, in the theatres that have a reasonable view back there. More often, though, they are the second and third balcony, and really restricted view stuff elsewhere…

The cynic in me suspects they are priced that way because someone has calculated that those seats will fill them with people who won’t know how to complain – but will remember not to buy them in future…

The result is that you get a first time theatregoer to come to the theatre. They sit in those grotty seats, can’t see or hear properly, and have to be winched out of them at the end… of course they don’t come back.

I grew keen on theatre thanks to “student standby.” In the days before “day seats” and discounts, you rolled up an hour before the show (longer, if you knew the play wasn’t doing well and they wanted every penny they could get) and you’d be sold the best available seat. That meant stalls and dress circle, and quite often if you were nice to them, you could even pick your pleasure, more or less.

When I grew up (Matilda) and had to pay full price, that was quite a shock. Luckily, even before I created Theatremonkey, I had the resource of all my notes to home in on the cheap but good seats – something I do to this day… and I think I could say from my 16 years online that I’ve helped many others do that too.

Once more, I wonder if the David Pugh philosophy is far better. “The Girls” has reasonably priced seats in all parts of the theatre, so there’s no need for a stunt discounting of a few cramped ones at the back. Prices are fair, and for a musical keen to attract a new audience, I think that will work very well.

Be interesting to see if others adopt this fairer, but less headline-grabbing approach. For the sake of building the theatre audience of the future by acknowledging successful method of the past, let’s hope it works and they do.

The Goodmonkey Awards 2017

February 1, 2017

They’re here. Called by “The Stage” newspaper the “awards we’ve never heard of, and wouldn’t cover if we did,” by the Society of London Theatre’s Olivier Awards Committee, “the only theatre awards in West End that our governing body actively deny,” and the only awards in the world where the “nomination envelopes” are marked “return to sender,” here they are, anyway, as is traditional, most important first:


Theatremonkey Gold Medal of Honour. To Disney Theatrical Productions and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. On June 13th 2016, a vigil was held outside the Prince Edward Theatre in Soho, in memory of victims of the Orlando Killings. Despite it being a vitally important performance of new musical “Aladdin,” Disney and the theatre owners replaced all electronic canopy signage with the Pride flag, and organised a silence within the building, matching the one outside.


A silk Kigurumi: To the make-up team at “Linda” at the Royal Court. It elicited a genuine gasp from me as the skunk outfit fell to reveal… very, very impressive.


The Kidney and Ball Valve: to Charlie Russell for that sequence every night during “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery.” Concurrently, a bar of Lifebuoy and toothbrush to the noxious 10 year old boy (seated behind me) making a disgustingly crude “skill to pay the bill” remark during said sequence at the performance I saw.


A personal “You, dear Boy” from the Great Man himself: to Duncan Macmillan and Barbara Marten of “People, Places and Things.” Writer, and characters of doctor / mother, neither got the Olivier they should’ve, so should get to be told in person.


A copy of “Zen and the Art of Stage Management”: to “In The Bar of a Tokyo Hotel” for a minimalist scene change. During the (unnecessary) interval, a stage hand comes on and exchanges the flower on an upstage table with one on a table downstage. That’s all, folks! Concurrently, a copy of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” to the London Coliseum crew at “Sunset Boulevard,” who put on a proper “Laurel and Hardy” act when trying to use too short a ladder to retrieve a streamer left hanging centre stage after act 1’s “New Year’s Eve” sequence. They did it, and the great British public duly rewarded them with an ironic round of applause.


The Oliver Twist Bowl (and Spoon) for classiest beggar: to Gemma Arterton, for her beautifully polite appeal for donations at the end of “Nell Gwynn.” Her leading man was running the marathon the next day, and hadn’t done much about sponsorship. Ms Arterton stepped forward at the end of the show and “knew that tickets were expensive” but “could we spare some loose change or notes.” No politics, just a plea for help. I went out of my way to do so.


A Dali Sketch (for most surreal complaint): to the person behind me at “Show Boat.” Julie was in the middle of singing “Bill,” when there was a rustling of a couple standing, and an elderly voice exclaiming, “we are moving because we can’t stand the smell of your onions.” Concurrently, the Fawlty Moose-Head for Inexplicable Behaviour to the person, several seats away in a row behind me, who managed to flick a hair-band across my eye-line during the battle scenes at “Henry V” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.


Livingstone Newt (For subtly concealing racism): to Lez Brotherston and team, for dropping the “N” word from the libretto of “Show Boat,” but cleverly replacing it with a Confederate Flag. Chilling and inspired staging.


“Two Paws on Shoulders’ (for nicest welcome to a theatre): to the Front of House teams at the Playhouse and Palace Theatres. At the Playhouse, warm first words for every customer at the door, ticket checked, and directed to the exact staircase – plus (on request) the nearest gents’ – all in not just efficient but a “glad you are here” way. At the Palace, a delightfully witty lady usher engaging everyone with a charming line in chat – and also a security team who assisted me with what could have been a slight issue regarding my bringing an essential dietary pack with me. Pre-arranged and worked on the day, deeply appreciated. Every theatre should be like this.


Dyson-Kenevil Wheelie for innovation: to Howard Panter and Adam Speers for the first ever attempt at West End “Stunt Writing” by getting Matthew Perry to pen “The End of Longing.”


Hyacinth Bucket Bouquet: to the Savoy Hotel for “moving on” an early arriving day-seater for “Funny Girl,” who was eating his breakfast on a pavement (owned by them) in front of the theatre while he waited. Their street, their rules, apparently…


The Shenton Suggestion Box, for review idea of the year: On the ticket agency londontheatredirect’s website, a “Show Boat” customer reviewer posted: “”The 4 main singers / actors were outstanding. Staging was good & cleverly used. Our seat with restrictions was great at the price . Shame there was not a final sing along at the end.” That was in July. Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II and Florenz Ziegfeld will have stopped whizzing round in their graves by now… probably.


The Rose (Bruford) for Most Fragrant Actor: To Joanna Vanderham (Lady Anne in “Richard III” at the Almeida). Her choice of toiletries continuously delighted the nostrils of all sitting along the aisles through which she made her entrances and exits.


The Keys to Arthur Daley’s Lockup: to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, for ingenious “dynamic pricing” of programmes. In July 2016, a “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” programme cost £6 Monday to Thursday… £8 Friday and Saturday. Hilarious! And hope it doesn’t catch on.


A melted Lego Brick (for terrible “blocking”): to Tom Sutherland for placing a key song in Southwark Playhouse’s “Allegro” on a high ladder… so that the view from my seat (A10) had an uninterrupted view… straight up singer Ms Katie Bernstein’s skirt. I looked away of course, but placing the platform just a few inches more centrally would have spared blushes all round.


An NHS Contract: to “A Pacifict’s Guide to the War on Cancer” for selling a programme, complete with hospital notes cover sleeve. If only the show had been half as inventive and interesting…


The Al Murray “Landlord’s Wave”: to Christina Bianco and the house manager at the Charing Cross Theatre. The performer tried bravely to incorporate a sozzled beyond reason woman in row C, into the show, before being rescued at the interval, when the house manager managed to convince the drunk to leave – peacefully and with almost imperceptible persuasion. There’s skill on both parts.


And that’s about it. Probably the only 2016 awards not to give Harry Potter anything for the actual play, but it’s about the whole experience. As audiences run riot, there’s still plenty to reward, so here’s to next year. See you in the stalls…

Hamilton: Those who bought on the 16th, help those who will buy on the 30th

January 25, 2017

With public booking opening on 30th January 2017 for the London production at the Victoria Palace Theatre, there is an excellent OFFICIAL page of information, with everything a ticket-buying customer needs to know at: Some updated advice went up on their blog on Friday 27th, too. The Hamiltonthemusical website also has the procedure for those requiring “access bookings” – there is a system in place, set apart from the “general” ticketing, so do use it if that is your requirement.

Most important of all, the ONLY official links to buy tickets are:

ALL of these lead to the same Ticketmaster powered page, that will let you book and provide the information on how to exchange your booking receipt, credit card swipe and flash of photo-ID for an admission slip on the day of the show.

Your credit card is linked to your booking, the number must be the same for you to get into the theatre.

Tickets bought from any other source simply won’t get you in. It’s that simple. Don’t waste your money.

Theatremonkey itself has a provisional seating plan and some information about the Victoria Palace Theatre in general. It’s worth noting that the theatre’s layout will change substantially. There is apparently material left online by fans of previous shows, relating to the previous building. Ignore it and trust a professional – this venue is getting a total internal re-fit, with the stage and its position relative to the audience undergoing radical alteration. Don’t rely on anything currently online, and you won’t be disappointed on the day.

Oh, and if you are thinking of buying tickets to re-sell, you can slope back off under your rock right now. This article isn’t for you. It’s for genuine theatregoers who simply want to see the show they already love or want to begin an affair with…


That’s the “official” stuff over. Now comes what happens in reality, as experienced by myself and contributors to on 16th January 2017 – the day booking opened for those foresighted enough to pre-register back in October.

A lucky few, including myself, found ourselves in a deeply fortunate position. Being paying members of the exellent DMT+ scheme – run by the theatre’s owner, our £35 subscription gave us an unexpected 2 hours head-start over the other pre-registered folks, who got online at noon.

Agreeing in advance to pool what happened, I thought I’d draw together the tips and hints we found helped as the rush began… it may not be “gospel” as they could change,  but this is based on what we found.



1) Choose as wide a range of dates and times as possible, and write them down in order of preference – saves fumbling for a calendar on the day.

The busiest performances will be Saturday then Friday, and expect little choice from November to February, and more for midweek dates. Quieter dates should come in March onwards, and the slower performances will be Thursday afternoons and Tuesday nights, as the rest of the West End pattern always is.

Going by the buying pattern I observed, there seemed to be more choice in the grand (upper) circle (second tier, highest in the theatre) than other seating sections by the end of “priority booking.”

In short, if you can, plan for the quietest dates, deepest into the booking period, for the best choice of seats. The @hamiltonwestend twitter feed is recommended by xanderl on as giving a running update on availability as it happens.

Be aware that the maximum number of tickets you can buy is 6. If you bought tickets in the “pre-sale,” that counts towards your total. So, if you bought 2 in the “pre-sale,” you can only 4 this time. Buy more – they will cancel ALL of them!


2) If you don’t have one – open a account in advance. Set one up NOW, and write down your user ID and password on the same piece of paper as the dates you have chosen. Test logging in a few hours later, to make sure all is well.

VITAL: you have an option to enter a credit card in advance… DO IT! That way, when it comes to the chaos on the day, all you will have to enter is the 3 or 4 digit security number, rather than the great long numbers and expiry dates too. Speeds up your checkout no end. Do, though, keep the card next to you (and an alternative in case it is declined) during the actual booking process on the day.

Try and use a credit card with an expiry date AFTER the day you will see the show. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter – Ticketmaster will contact you, or you can contact them – to update the expiry / card number when your new card is issued, before the show. If you can, though, it will save time and trouble later on. Your card will be your main key to entry on the day.


3) Adopt the usual tactic regular bookers use and rehearse using the website days before you actually need to.

Learn how it is laid out, where to find information and where to click to get your dates etc. Maybe pick a different show, click on a ticket and follow through to the point you have to put a card number in, if you like. Don’t buy anything of course, but if you know how to navigate the site in advance, it gains you valuable seconds over everybody else who will be fumbling.



The following is on a desktop or other device with a full browser – smartphone users CANNOT USE THE APP. It is “full website” only.

4) If you can, have several machines, tuned in to the page. Use several browsers – Internet Explorer and Chrome in particular (see later), and feel free to have more than one window open. The reason is that if there is a “virtual queue” with places allocated at random, the more entries you have in line the better. You can always shut down the “failures,” and leave only the better hopes open as you go on.

Get onto the site about 10 minutes before booking opens at 12 noon on the 30th January 2017.

At that point, you will likely get a “Hamilton” graphic. Scroll below it, and there is a list of months, and the likely availability for each month.

You may well be able to click on a month, and that will bring up a page of dates. Where there is a single performance, you will see the date and “More Info.” Stop here if that is what you want, and wait.

Where there are both an afternoon and evening performance, you will see “Choose Time.” If you are going for one of these, click “Choose Time” and you will get a page offering afternoon or evening, with a link again, “More Info.” Wait here.

Refresh the page after 6 minutes or so. It won’t change, but keeps it active on your machine.

For “Access” bookings, theatremonkey reader Robert says,
“For access bookings (non wheelchair) call 0800 998 4410 – be prepared to ring a few times, and listen to a minute of Ticketmaster blurb. Have various dates in mind. The access rate is £37.50.” THIS NUMBER IS ONLY, ONLY, ONLY for those who have “access” needs. It is NOT for any other form of public booking. Don’t even TRY to call it unless “access” applies to you. Robert also adds, “For wheelchair bookings, complete the form on the website, and await a call back.” The say 10 days, but some wheelchair users report a far longer wait.  Again, ONLY for wheelchair users.


5) WHEN THE CLOCK ON YOUR COMPUTER STRIKES 12 NOON… wait 3 seconds and hit “refresh.” An egg-timer will appear, and the page will appear again. If the message under your chosen date says “Find Tickets,” click it – booking is open and you can go ahead…

If you still get “More Info” keep refreshing until that changes to “Find Tickets.” It won’t be more than a few seconds, if all is well with Ticketmaster’s servers on the day.



Alternatively, and most likely, you will be placed in a queue instead, and will have to wait…

Here’s what happened to members of “theatreboard” on 16th January 2017:

Some were lucky (as indeed I was),

“I had the page with the date I wanted tickets for open, refreshed at noon and got straight in. (Steffi)

For others,

“I got through to the date I wanted before the queue kicked in, and then got put into a queue about 15 minutes or so before 12 noon.” (Kathryn)

“I was put into the queue after the pick a month stage” (emicardiff)

“After the pick a month page. I was only in a queue from the time that I opened the page 11:50 ish and immediately got taken out of the queue at 12.” (Dan213)

“I think I was in a queue at the “Pick a month” stage, no indication of position in queue. (xanderl)

“I was in queue from 12 after the date selection, probably for about 5 minutes. The first time I picked seats then didn’t get them the wait was about 3 minutes. For the 2nd and 3rd times it was up to between 10 and 12. The final time when asked TM to pick for me was much quicker.” (ptwest)

“Went into the queue at the pick a month stage. After that on my phone so no seat selection option and fairly plain sailing.” (infofreako)

“I was on the date selection page before 12, clicked on the date I wanted at exactly 12pm, was in a queue for about a minute, did the whole code and ticket selection bit and hit find tickets, was briefly in a queue while they found me tickets then it was smooth after that – no queuing to pay.” (poster J)

“I believe I was put in a queue at the pick-a-month page.” (Mr Crummles)

“I was definitely in a queue, I think I went to, chose the month, and then got put into the queue.” (SamB).


So, expect a wait, seems to be the opinion – though sadly “Stasia” says, “I was in the queue for selecting the seats, for adding them to the order – for everything, for almost an hour! These queues were constantly saying “sorry, something went wrong” or just went wrong without saying that… So the process was not the easiest and happiest one. I got a ticket after 45 minutes, though”

Do remember that while in line, people can only book 6 tickets, and most will only want 1 or 2, so there will be plenty left when you get to the front – so relax a little…


6) You are IN!

You will, if the system can cope, see a seating plan for the show, with dark blue circles indicating seats available. Click on the plan, and that activates it.

If you can’t see the plan and just get the text at the top of the page – hit refresh until it appears in the white space in the centre of your screen. This happened to me just as booking opened, and can also happen when the pages are very busy.

Click on seats, add them to your basket. If someone got there first, the system will return you to the page and let you try again.

Be clever. Don’t expect those front centre seats to still actually be unsold when you click – a faster customer will have them, but the system won’t have updated to show that. Pick seats 5 or 6 along, or central ones a couple of rows back  – they are more likely not to have been sold yet and will save you the nerve-wracking experience of choosing again (assuming the system isn’t overloaded and will let you!). I had to do just that, myself; luckily it worked out, but why add an extra problem?!

Oh, and if you only want a SINGLE seat, make sure you only choose one that will not leave another single ticket – the system doesn’t allow you to do that – so don’t waste time clicking on one of a pair, or the middle one of three.

IF the system is busy, the chance to choose will disappear, and the system will choose your seats for you. Let them, it’s the best you can do. The object is to get tickets into your basket as fast as you can, simple as that.

IMPORTANT: The system allocates “best available” or “best available at the price you selected.” As a Theatremonkey reader found “I was searching for stalls, but the ‘best available’ system kicked in and gave me dress circle tickets. I bought them as I didn’t want to lose my chance, and they were great seats on row C, but they weren’t what I had really wanted while I was looking.”

Theatreboard readers say,

(Alece10), “I went in a queue from the beginning then another queue once selected my seat. Then got thrown out of that queue as it said they had withdrawn the pick your own seat facility so it was back to the start. They selected my seat and then in a queue again for payment.”

SamB notes, “once I got on to a chosen date and chose the price levels of seats I wanted, it also put me into a ‘pseudo-queue’ while it searched for available seats on that day.”

Nelly adds, “No queue for me, a couple of dates started off with the ‘pick your own seats’ then decided it wasn’t about that life so decided for me but I didn’t get kicked out of the date or anything. There were a number of dates where it gave me alternative dates with availability which I thought was quite clever.“

And xanderl adds, “had to wait for long periods at certain stages, I guess there was queuing also at the seat picking stage (I used best available).”


If you really don’t like what you are offered, you can choose again – but risk getting something worse. On the other hand, theatreboard reader “mrbarnaby” says,

“Well I’m glad I had multiple windows and devices open as I was offered the upper circle for £89!! I DONT THINK SO. 2 seconds later on my iPad- Stalls H for the same price.”


7) Once your tickets are in your basket, MOVE FAST. You have limited time to complete the booking.

First, prepare to prove that “I am NOT a Robot.” You have to complete a task, usually selecting elements in a group of photographs – like “pick all the street signs.”

I was unlucky and ended up playing a game of “Whack-A-Mole” against Ticketmaster Security for almost 30 frustrating seconds as the “time to complete your booking” ticked down. I had to click every store-front until a green tick appeared in every box on the page, more or less, and it let me continue.

I used Internet Explorer. Reader Lou 105 on theatreboard noted,
“It seemed that Chrome went more smoothly than Firefox, amongst the small number of people I knew who were booking. There may of course have been other factors, but Chrome seemed to give the simple tick box, whereas the captcha failed repeatedly when my friend was on Firefox.”

If that happens, consider using the “visually impaired” option – a little “speaker” symbol that will give you a spoken word to type in (make sure your speakers are turned on).


8) Hope that all goes smoothly, and you will be asked to pay. Remember to tick the “ticketless delivery” circle and also the “I accept terms and conditions” circle hidden in the bottom left of the “order summary” page. Be alert for any other boxes that need ticking – if you miss one, it slows you down radically, and leaves you more vulnerable to having the page crash as it refreshes and loses your booking.

If you pre-registered your card, you will bless yourself as your excited, shaking fingers need only punch in 3 digits from the back of your card (4 for Amex card users – the number is on the front of the card below the symbol, in that case).


9) Accept it can take a nail-biting minute or two to process your booking. If you see “Congratulations, you are going to see Hamilton” YOU ARE IN!!!! reader Baemax notes,
“I chose my seats and input all my payment details, only for the website to tell me that “something went wrong”. OUTRAGE! So I hopped back in the queue then at some point, idly wondering what I’d previously booked through Ticketmaster, I looked under the “Your account” option only to see that my booking had gone through after all and I will be seeing Hamilton this year. So if the payment appears to have not gone through at that late stage, it is worth double-checking before assuming you were definitely unsuccessful.”

They send an email (which can take 24 hours) to confirm too, keep it safe – but DO make a note of the booking reference or take a “screen shot” (use control and Prt Scr on your keyboard to do that and get the page onto your clipboard, then paste it into photo editor to print) before you close your browser with a satisfied sigh.




10) Check back a day and two and three days later. In the scrum, ticket sales fail to complete or get rejected, and you could well find seats become available as they are put back on sale.

Remember, too, that the theatre’s seating plan isn’t confirmed, and that they will release extra seats in the autumn, when it is…

… if not, well there’s always next time, now you’ve had the practise.


It isn’t paranoid, a few days later, to suddenly ‘not believe your luck’ and log into your account to check if the ticket is really there, log out, then log in again to check that you hadn’t accidentally deleted it when you checked… well, it isn’t…


Good luck, and enjoy the show!



Quick updates, February 2017:

  1. Some people reported that having too many windows open in a single type of browser slowed the system down and put them in a loop that never got to the booking page. Worth knowing to close a few if it seems things are going nowhere. Even open a new browser and try again in a single window.
  2. A blog reader emailed me to say that they read the resulting blog, and it worked for them for “Hamilton.” It worked so well, that they used identical tactics yesterday to get “Lady Gaga” tickets at the O2 Arena. Apparently it worked equally brilliantly.

    So, give ourselves a round of applause for finding a way through both touts and “the system,” I think.

Round-up of 2016

January 18, 2017

First Entry of the new year, and it’s a simple run-down of the best and worst I saw in 2016. Subjective as ever, and leaving out a few “re-visits,” the list runs as follows – in no particular order under each heading:

Out Of This World (SO – yep, a standing ovation from me. Many more than usual this year, and all deserved).
The Master Builder (Old Vic) (SO)
Funny Girl (Menier Chocolate Factory (SO)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Lyttelton Theatre)
People, Places & Things (Wyndham’s Theatre) (SO)
Show Boat (New London Theatre) (SO)
Romeo and Juliet (Garrick Theatre)
The Flick (Dorfman Theatre) (SO)
Titanic (Charing Cross Theatre)
Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre) (SO)
Jesus Christ, Superstar (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park) (SO)
Groundhog Day (Old Vic Theatre) (SO)
The Dresser (Duke of York’s Theatre) (SO)
Ragtime (Charing Cross Theatre) (SO)
Amadeus (Olivier Theatre) (SO)
Dick Whittington (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Oh Come All Ye Divas (Charing Cross Theatre)

The Wonder Years
Linda (Royal Court Downstairs)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Donmar Warehouse)
Bar Mitzvah Boy (Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre)
The Painkiller (Garrick Theatre)
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery (Criterion Theatre)
The Caretaker (Old Vic Theatre)
Sunset Boulevard (London Coliseum)
Nell Gwynn (Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue)
Cleansed (Dorfman Theatre)
Blue / Orange (Young Vic Theatre)
The Threepenny Opera (Olivier Theatre)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 2 (Palace Theatre)
How The Other Half Loves (Duke of York’s Theatre)
The Bodyguard (Dominion Theatre)
Richard III (Almeida Theatre)
The Deep Blue Sea (Lyttelton Theatre)
Allegro (Southwark Playhouse)
No Man’s Land (Wyndhams Theatre)
The Libertine (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)
School of Rock (New London Theatre)
King Lear (Old Vic Theatre)
The Spanish Riding School of Vienna (Wembley Arena)
Half A Sixpence (Noel Coward Theatre)
The Last 5 Years (St James Theatre)
Cymbeline (Barbican Theatre)
This House (Garrick Theatre) Cinderella (London Palladium)
She Loves Me (Menier Chocolate Factory)

California Dreams
As You Like It (Olivier Theatre)
Hangmen (Wyndhams Theatre)
Road Show (Union Theatre)
In The Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (Charing Cross Theatre)
Running Wild (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park)
Elegy (Donmar Warehouse)
Henry V (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1 (Palace Theatre)
Guys and Dolls (Phoenix Theatre)
The Entertainer (Garrick Theatre)
Ghost: The Musical (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Vanities: The Musical (Trafalgar Studio 2)
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Dorfman Theatre)
Shopping and F***ing (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith)
Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre)
Side Show (Southwark Playhouse)
Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre)

Saved By The Bell
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me (Young Vic Theatre)
The End of Longing (Playhouse Theatre)
Doctor Faustus (Duke of York’s Theatre)
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)
A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer (Dorfman Theatre)
Oil (Almeida Theatre)

Bug Juice
Macbeth (Young Vic Theatre)
The Suicide (Lyttelton Theatre)
Nice Fish (Harold Pinter Theatre)

Some really great stuff this year, and those many “standing ovations,” that were actually very much deserved. A few let-downs, and the three productions I liked least were genuinely excruciating to sit through, but it really has been a good year. If I had to pick a new play, “The Flick” is simply the best three hours I’ve had in a theatre this year, while “Groundhog Day” produced “Playing Nancy” – the finest new show tune in a decade, perhaps.

Coming in a few weeks too, the annual “Goodmonkey Awards” – rewarding the things other awards ceremonies can’t bear to even think about…


Dick Whittington – New Wimbledon Theatre

December 14, 2016

(Seen at the afternoon preview performance on 10th December 2016).

After the severe shock of Jared Christmas 2015 (vile, obnoxious little man, may he never disgrace the Wimbledon – or any pantomime – stage again); I’m overjoyed to report that for 2016 the New Wimbledon panto team are back on form, delivering the finest traditional panto possible, and then some.

We know we are in safe hands as the curtain goes up on a magnificently colourful “I Want to Dance With Somebody,” and Grace Chapman (Alice Fitzwarren) demonstrates a belting voice to go with the looks and charm required of a proper panto leading lady.

Next up,

Arlene Phillips (Fairy Bowbells) and Matt Harrop (King Rat) make a poetic start on the story.  Harrop’s beautifully judged timing gives us the perfect rat to boo for the rest of the show, while Phillips grows in confidence with every line – later delivering a highlight that has the whole theatre joining in, and loving it.

The first comedy spot follows. In place of the horrific self-aggrandising moaning of Mr Christmas 2015 (that had the theatre in shocked silence as festive spirit bled out of every door), joker genius Tim Vine (Idle Jack) makes a triumphant punning return from an “away game” (you have to be there). Mr Vine ensures that there isn’t a dry seat in the house, and, has the audience begging for more.

Likewise, panto regular Matthew Kelly (Sarah The Cook) does her solo stuff brilliantly as always (and the frocks, my dear, the frocks!) and better still finds a perfect foil in Mr Vine, their duo surely something Wimbledon’s producers should contract annually for the foreseeable future.

As title character, Sam Hallion (Dick Whittington) is lucky enough to pair with not one, but two special people. First, Indi-Jay Cammish (Tommy The Cat), his faithful friend. Cammish’s third time in the role, and it shows. Gymnast extraordinaire, mime artist, able to make her single “meow” carry meaning alone or as a whole rhyme, her every moment on stage is a pleasure.

Second, the already mentioned Ms Chapman ensures that the pairing are not only a stunningly attractive couple, but also well attuned, with voices blending and some highly believable acting too (I suspect a “showmance” for sure, here – another panto tradition upheld, if true). Paul Baker (Alderman Fitzwarren / Sultan) should be happy at the match – and if not, he is regal enough to do something about it… if he survives the terrible grape jokes in act 2 every night, that is…

Worthy of mention are the ensemble – Paige Albery, Rethea Coles, Daisy Darville, George Ioannides, Kamen Knight, Ella Kora, Ethan Tanner and Rhys West, who fill the stage with precision dance and some decent background comedy too. Also not forgetting the Juveniles – Blue Team from Doris Holford Stage School at this performance, who ensure “Never Forget” is an uplifting sequence in the second half (once they have finished loading the ship, of course).

Yes, this time Eric Potts is back on form with his interlacing of classic routines and topical one-liners (Trump and Southern rail – the latter obviously the bane of Ms Chapman’s life, going by her hand signal) and fascinating older material “Turn Again Whittington” and “The Lambeth Walk,” that the youngsters in the audience found as enchanting today as their elders did when first performed.

The whole is ably directed by Ian Talbot once again, with Mal Maddock and Steve Power ensuring the music flowed and Aaron Renfree filling David Howe’s glowing stage with dance energy.

Fabulous clean family fun, the audience buzzing and the feeling lasting right through the season. If you can get a ticket (there really are not many left), turn again to Wimbledon, where the stage is paved with gold.

5 stars.


Photographer credit: Darren Bell. Used by kind permission of the New Wimbledon Theatre.



And on that festive note, thanks for reading in 2016, and it’s time for a break. Hopefully, I’ll see you in 2017, back on the 18th January. Merry Christmas to Christian readers, and a Happy New Year to all.

Still about beating ticket touts…

December 7, 2016

For those who tried to get “Adele” tickets and found themselves chasing pavements instead, the usual reasons given in the press were that automated systems were sucking up the tickets before anyone else had a chance – by entering payment details faster than a human could. Further, agreements between venues and “secondary ticketing” websites meant that vast blocks were never on sale at “normal” prices anyway.

Now, last Thursday, something interesting happened. It was’s 16th birthday – and thank you to the literally hundreds of readers who tweeted, emailed and posted on their good wishes, you’ve NO idea how much that meant – anyway again…

I also got an email telling me that (after the late, great, Paul Daniels, may he rest in peace always) my favourite magicians Penn and Teller would be in the UK next year. I’ve always promised myself to go see them, and since Las Vegas is out of the question for the time being, the UK seemed a far better bet.

Better still, if willing to use AXA ticketing, a priority bunch of seats were on sale. True, you couldn’t choose your own, and the fees were £2 more than the usual site, but even so… I went for it, and have a wonderful seat, £30 cheaper than just 2 rows in front. Delighted and can’t wait for my Miser’s Dream (I hope. If it doesn’t happen, watch out at the stage door is all I’m saying).

Point is, though, AXA have found a way to beat the automated system so far as entering personal details as fast as a machine can… while in the “waiting room” to buy tickets, you can ENTER ALL YOUR CARD DETAILS so that when you do get on to buy, just like the computers, it’s all there and you don’t have to do anything more once your seats have been allocated.

It speeds up booking too, as the site isn’t waiting for hundreds of people to fumble with the forms as well as selecting the tickets and dealing with the line, and the whole thing works. I was impressed (even if the total booking fees were, frankly, pretty high and imaginative – “facility fee,” anyone?). So, that’s that bit sorted. Next thing is to eliminate the usability of tickets to start with, making it pointless for a tout to buy them in the first place.

My latest suggestion: ask those customers who are interested to pre-register for an event, and upload photos of those who will be using the tickets. At checkout, once logged into your account (details entered), the user must select the photos of those attending – and the photos will be printed out on the tickets AND digitally entered into the database so that on arrival ushers can check faces and compare them with the online photo brought up on the entry device too, if there’s a question.

There’s no way to re-sell a ticket with a photo on it, nor alter the photo if it is going to be compared, and it’s another weapon, I think. Also, if I’m paying £7 for the service privilege, a personalised souvenir ticket is at least way of getting something for it, isn’t it!

Things People Assume About Theatregoers

November 30, 2016

I do still get the odd, “how did you get interested in theatre, when nobody in your family is connected with it, and you come from such an ordinary background” comment. Answer: my parents did love going to see live shows, and were wise enough to take me when I was very young.

Still, it did get me making a very simple list of things theatregoers seem to be thought of as being… yet I can’t relate to any of them…

Posh. Me? Blackpool chips over Beluga Caviar any day.

Grey haired. Well, half guilty, but its stress, and I’ve not dyed it blue… yet.

Alcoholic. All those “free glass of Prosecco with your ticket” offers. I for one am tee-total, and actually get angry when I get those offers. Add a soft drink alternative, please.

Clever. Well, I do have the certificates, but to understand even the most complex play you need only see a great production and listen.

Rich. In name only, and of course I know which seats to buy and where to get them cheap. If I can’t, well, the odd pricey one I think evens it out, but even I drew the line at £85 for “The Rocky Horror Show,” last year – Richard as narrator or not.

Stupid. If I pay for a premium seat without good reason, I may just let you have that one (see above).

Middle-class. If reading the “Daily Mail” (mostly for Fred Bassett, Baz Bamigboye and Richard Littlejohn) is, then fine. I’d say working class product of a comprehensive school is nearer the mark.

Obsessive. Guilty as charged. Well, one of out 7 isn’t bad, is it?!