After an extremely busy September and the first half of October, things settle down to a more manageable level for the next few weeks, until the mad rush towards Christmas begins (I was in Leeds the other day, and the Christmas decorations were already going up around town; and the local branch of Greggs there was already selling individual portions of Christmas cake!)
So I’m spending most of this week catching up on shows I missed when they opened, like David Greig’s The Events (which I missed at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, since I didn’t go at all, but arrives for a run at the Young Vic tonight) or Moira Buffini’s Handbagged at the Tricycle that I’m catching tomorrow.
Then on Wednesday I’ll be back at the Adelphi to revisit (and re-review) The Bodyguard, with new leads Beverley Knight and Tristan Gemmill, and on Friday I’m heading to Birmingham to catch the opening of the National’s new touring version of War Horse – a show I’ve not seen since its West End transfer to the New London five years ago.
Thursday brings David Tennant in his return to the RSC in Richard II at Stratford-upon-Avon, but I’ll wait to see that one when it transfers to the Barbican in December.
And on Sunday, I’ll be at the Guildhall for this year’s UK Theatre Awards – even though I was on the judging panel for these (and therefore helped draw up the shortlists), voting for the winners was by secret ballot, so even I don’t know who has actually won!
That’s my diary of the week; what’s yours?
Notes on Reviews and a Press Release
Given the shorter-than-usual run down to this week, I’m going to fill out today’s column with some notes on recent reviews and releases.
- I was curious to see a full page ad for Barking in Essex in the Standard last week that included 7 quote extracts from the reviews, giving an indication of raves across the board. But closer inspection revealed that no fewer than four of those quotes – in other words, over half of them – came from the self-same source, Charles Spencer’s review for the Daily Telegraph. They didn’t exactly hide the fact, since each was properly attributed, but it’s an interesting spin on the traditional quotes ad.
- And travelling on the tube last weekend, I also noticed a big poster ad for Afraid of the Dark at Charing Cross Theatre that also had three critics’ quotes on it – from Bizarre, The Upcoming and Backstage Pass. I’ve not heard of a single one of those outlets, let alone ever read them. Yet here they are, their quotes emblazoned on the posters. I went in search of those reviews: in a five-star notice for The Upcoming, Clarissa Waldron credits director Ian Tablot as being artistic and managing director of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, though he actually gave up that job in 2007.
She goes on to declare:
This is a unique theatrical experience, combining tension, humour, politics, romance, mystery and death that forces acknowledgement of the commonality of our anxieties and the agitation in enduring them.
That’s quite a contrast to Stwart Pringle’s one-star review for Time Out that begins:
Let’s be clear about this. ‘Afraid of the Dark’ is dreadful. The script is dreadful, the direction is dreadful, the effects are dreadful. The acting? You guessed it.
And it ends:
The script is credited to ‘Anonymous’, so in absence of anyone concrete to blame, I’m directing my ire towards ‘Literary Consultant’ Jack Bradley. Oh, Jack. What were you thinking, Jack? How could you let this happen?
- Dominic Maxwell took over last week as chief theatre critic of The Times, but before he did so, he paid a quick visit to New York – where he saw one of the first previews of Betrayal with Rachel Weisz, Daniel Craig and Rafe Spall… and duly effectively reviewed it!
He took pains to point out it was only an early preview he had seen, and had paid to do so, saying,
I paid $150 (£94) for a seat at the back of the stalls in a midweek matinee in the first week of previews. And though Mike Nichols’s production still has more previews to go, for the most part it looked in grand shape to me.
Last week I noted how Libby Purves was starting her own blog now that she’d given up reviewing for The Times; it’s curious to see her replacement, though, behaving like a blogger.
- It was only a matter of time before the renaming of the Comedy Theatre to the Harold Pinter would become confused with the name of Howard Panter, joint chief executive of its owners Ambassador Theatre Group.
And lo and behold, in a press release issued last week announcing the arrival of a new producing outfit called Glass Half Full Productions, led by Adam Blanshay and theatrical investor Gareth Lake, it was proudly announced that Blanshay’s previous producing credits in London included Old Times at the Howard Pinter. Since Harold had actually written Old Times, I’m sure he’d be doubly amused by the error if he was around.
- Finally, The Observer has at last capitulated – it has introduced star ratings to its reviews. It was the only major national paper not to have done so for its theatre reviews. But now you can find the star ratings online.