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Harden's Theatregoers' Handbook - Mark Shenton and Roger Foss

Review by David Munro

FOR once, I have come across a book on the theatre for which I have nothing but praise.

It is truly a book on the theatre, or more accurately the theatres, as it is a Theatre-Goers Handbook, published by Harden’s and written and compiled by Mark Shenton and Roger Foss.

Why do I find it so admirable? Because it is a down to earth, no nonsense vade mecum for anyone who wants to go to the theatre in London, or out of it, and is excellent value at £7.99.

It contains all the information which is vital if you are planning an evening out. It gives you concise but clear directions of how to reach the theatre by bus, Tube and foot.

For the major London ones, there are seating plans, invaluable if you have to book by’ phone, and hints as to the best seats to go for, and those to avoid.

There is a section on restaurants in the West End, which, if not exhaustive, is certainly a good pointer to anyone who wishes to eat before or after the show. I can vouch for a lot of those recommended as being convenient and good value.

There are paragraphs on how to behave in the theatre (the book certainly does not lack humour, as some of its descriptions of the more uncomfortable theatres prove) and advice on how best to book tickets.

In addition, there is also very good information on the ‘Fringe’, with dire warnings as how you may have to suffer for you art in outer Islington, and a brief resume of theatre out of town, and in the regions.

All in all, it covers everything the average theatre-goer wants, and is an admirable guide through to the quagmire of your first visit to the theatre when you have just arrived in town.

All the information is presented in a well-written and easy to assimilate manner .

If all this reads like a puff for the authors, and designed to ensure they have a comfortable retirement, I can assure you it is not.

Obviously, one has minor cavils - one being that with a book entitled, ‘Theatregoers’ Handbook’, I would have expected to have seen more about the regional theatres, because the title implies a universal theme - but that would double the size of the book and the price.

As it is, the handbook is a useful little guide, and if it were entitled ‘The London Theatre-goers’ Handbook’ it might be less open to the Trades Description Act

That being said, it is the ideal book to have at hand when the relatives visit. After all, once they have read this book, they have no excuse for not taking you out to the theatre!

So, go out, buy it and share the author’s knowledge and enjoyment of the theatre and how to get there, for yourself.

THEATREGOERS’ HANDBOOK by Mark Shenton & Roger Foss. Published by Harden’s Ltd, 14 Buckingham Street, London, WC2N 6DF.

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