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Theatremonkey: A Guide to London's West End

By Steve Rich
Red Squirrel Publishing £9.99
151 pages

Dateline: 24th October, 2010

Every London theatregoer should know about the Theatremonkey website. Unlike the BTG, which starts and stops with what is happening on stage, it offers a unique service by telling its visitors about the best and worst seats in each London theatre.

The site's proprietor, "The Monkey" might be a wee bit opinionated but, as a general rule, knows his stuff. Before booking a theatre seat, a visit to this website should be near enough compulsory.

It will prevent those nasty accidents by which diminutive members of the public can hear but not see a show, the aurally challenged can see but not hear and those looking for a bargain too often end up getting fleeced and able to do neither.

Now, in a reversal of current practice, the website has backed out into a beautifully produced book published by Red Squirrel, which is slim enough to fit into a pocket but still printed on glossy paper and as such a pleasure to read.

The first three chapters feature tips on theatregoing, starting with planning the expedition, then advising on buying tickets, getting bargains and procuring entrance to sold-out shows.

The meat of Theatremonkey lies in the 100 pages of Chapter 4. These provide quick and sometimes quirky overviews of each West End theatre, as well as those invaluable seating plans, colour-coded and supplemented by that all-important commentary with advice on the perfect seat for every visitor and price range.

One wonders how he does it. Has Steve Rich really sat in every seat in every theatre in London? Maybe so, as he doesn't get much wrong but admits to receiving a great deal of assistance from website feedback.

While he might be 99% right, your reviewer confesses to having some doubts regarding the opinions about the Barbican Theatre, where his usually perfect judgement may be a little out. For those on a tight budget, the seats at the front and side of the dress and upper circles can offer real bargains, being incredibly close to the action with very little restriction of view.

Allowing for a single blip (always debatable), this handy little guide should prove very popular, particularly with those who either don't visit the theatre nearly as often as they would like to, or, more particularly, tourists.

Anyone falling into either of these categories can keep a copy in a pocket when they are queuing up at TKTS in Leicester Square and trying to work out how good "best available" tickets might be. Even more critically, if they are stupid enough to try out a tout, at least they will be able to see what they are getting for their large amount of money.

Steve Rich already has a successful brand and, like every other habitué of Theatremonkey, this grateful reader will be dipping into this book in addition to the associated website whenever he wants to book West End tickets.

Philip Fisher

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©Peter Lathan 2010