Written for The Collective Review, 31 July 2009
I can’t contest the claim in the press release that iTheatre is “the first iPhone application dedicated to London theatres”. I am equally powerless to deny that the app features “reviews, seating plans, ticket availability and even mapping services”. But I will dispute to the death the assertion that it can keep users “up to date with all the latest shows” (my italics).
iTheatre was developed by Ubinow Solutions for BestOfTheatre.co.uk, a theatre listings site and ticket agent run by a webmarketer, gemologist and (presumably) theatre enthusiast named François-Xavier Bonnefous. A quick browse through BestOfTheatre.co.uk is enough to reveal a bias towards West End venues. (For “bias towards,” read “total exclusion of all theatres except”.) iTheatre has inherited this bias.
Functionally, the app is pretty slick. Play the above video for a demo. It looks good, the interface is simple and intuitive for both browsing and booking, and it includes some nifty extra features, such as seating plans and the option to drop a map pin at the theatre’s location. It also gathers a relatively wide selection of discounts and special offers into a single list, giving you the equivalent of a Leicester Square discount booth in your pocket. I say “relatively” because the selection is comprehensive within the group of venues covered, but that group contains only a small percentage of London’s theatres.
All the listings have Images and Reviews tabs, but comparatively few actually have any images or reviews attached; some reviews tail off into ellipses mid-sentence, and some images are squashed or stretched. This being the first ever theatre listings app, these issues are probably just teething problems.
I suspect it’s also because this is the first ever theatre listings app, and therefore something of an experiment, that it targets only the most lucrative chunk of the British theatregoing public – fans of the West End. Unfortunately this makes iTheatre worthless to anyone living outside London, or living in London and unable to afford West End shows, or living in London and the least bit interested in the off-West End scene.
iTheatre may currently be the only app of its kind, but it has by no means filled its niche in the market. Ubinow have set the bar high. iTheatre as a whole has not. There’s room at the top for an app that can legitimately call itself “comprehensive”.