Everything That You Always Wanted to Know about Going to the Theatre: but Were Too Sloshed to Ask, Dear

West End Producer

Nick Hern Books

Released 30 November 2017

Review by Philip Fisher

The full title of this book will tell most readers whether it is likely to be of interest. This is the kind of work that one finds under the humour section in bookshops and, as with so much else that falls into that category, the appeal will come down to the reader’s taste.

Before getting on to that aspect, it is worth observing that the pseudonymous West End Producer knows his stuff. His commentary on the various different constituent parts of theatre going is informed by long experience and expert insight.

It can be a little random, giving the impression that he and his publishers wished to ensure a page count that supported the “relatively modest” cover price of £10.99 from Nick Hern Books.

The book is divided into five “Acts” and covers basic elements such as obtaining tickets, getting to theatres, interval drinks and even how to clap.

This is then interspersed with boxes presenting thoughts, commonly in list form, on side issues. Each chapter ends with brief critiques of popular West End musicals and to, top off the book, there is a long section walking readers around every theatre in the West End and, more briefly, many on the fringe.

Much of this is informative and could prove helpful to anyone planning a night out on the town.

For the uninitiated, this writer has made his name via a regular column in The Stage, not to mention a penchant for appearing at opening nights wearing a rather unbecoming latex mask.

His main selling point is likely to be an ability to make readers laugh. However, as the first paragraph of this review suggests, his constituency will probably be limited to what Sir Nicholas Hytner referred to in the context of critics as “dead white men” i.e. middle-aged (or older), middle-class gents with old-fashioned views.

The timing of publication might prove unfortunate, since so many of West End Producer’s opinions and quips are determinedly sexist and, if purloined by readers to address colleagues or friends, could lead to long, embarrassed silences or in extreme circumstances, perhaps even sexual harassment charges. Then again, the same could be said of Les Dawson, Jim Davidson and many other comedians of West End Producer’s generation and before.

Having said all of that, the book is undoubtedly informative and this kind of humour might go down very well in the kind of establishments i.e. pubs where if it is to be believed West End producers and their pals hang out prior to spending their evenings at the theatre.