Critics live with the fact that we are inevitably conscripted into the publicity machine, as our reviews are pored over and quotes extracted from them for front-of-house displays and ad copy. They become valuable to producers to promote the worth of their work to the public, from supposedly independent arbiters.
But we all know, too, how easy it is for quotes to be ripped out of context, too. You can currently find the following quote emblazoned on a billboard outside the Palace Theatre, where The Commitments is playing:
YOU ARE ASSURED OF A GOOD TIME
Simon Edge, Daily Express.
What he actually wrote was:
If your idea of a good night at the theatre is being urged to get to your feet and dance to Mustang Sally as muso soul-king Jimmy turns Butlin’s Redcoat at the end of the show, you are assured of a good time.
But these days producers are no longer limited, of course, to national papers to quote from. It’s fascinating to notice that on the quotes page of reviews of From Here to Eternity on that show’s website there are, in addition to quotes from the Daily Express (this time correctly attributed!), the Financial Times, Independent, Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, The Times and Time Out, also extracts from reviews from Blouinartinfo (which I’d never heard of before), So So Gay, West End Frame, LiveTheatre, A Younger Theatre, British Theatre Guide and Broadwayworld.com, as well as Graham Norton, Boris Johnson and Libby Purves.
Of course, Libby – formerly theatre critic of The Times – is a respected theatre commentator, and she has happily reinvented herself as a regular blogger on the scene. It’s been interesting to see her enthusiastic quotes happily endorsing shows on the boards outside theatres from Perfect Nonsense at the Duke of York’s to Strangers on a Train at the Gielgud.
The critical landscape, as I’ve mentioned often before in this blog, is changing all the time. And as we are all required to adjust to those changing times, it’s great to see that the theatres are moving with them in welcoming those new outlets.