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The Green Room: Do you remember your reviews?

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Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally

Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer

Vivian “The increasingly annoying voice of …”.

JonI love ‘increasingly’.

Vivian Right?

JonLike 10 minutes in they were ‘oh dear’…

Vivian That reviewer is dead now.

Peter I remember all the bad ones. Plus the very good ones. But mainly not. Unlike many actors, I do read the reviews.

Beryl I only remember one really mean but funny one, which I’m certainly not going to share with you. Oh, and there was one from Quentin Letts – so obviously, that one was offensive.

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Albert My own worst was “… receives the news that she is his mother with all the excitement of a miner’s son who has forgotten his packed lunch”.

JonI think mine was a collective – “The men in the cast were impossible to take seriously as they bulldozed through the text like callow sixth formers.” The worst thing about it is that, thinking about that show, I’m inclined to agree.

Albert The bad ones are so much more fun to read. Bernard Levin in the Sunday Times used to be unmissable.

Peter Vivien Leigh “played Lady Macbeth like a debutante called upon to dismember a stag”.

JonI think John Mason Brown has the classic in that genre – “He played the king as if afraid someone else would play the ace.”

Albert Diana Rigg’s book, No Turn Unstoned, is a fab read.

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JonYes – someone bought it for me as a birthday present a couple of years back. A lovely collection of schadenfreude.

Vivian I had to look up what eating the scenery meant after reading one review. That was a sad day.

JonI love how we went straight to the bad ones. You are allowed to tell us about the nice ones too.

Annie I was at drama school and ‘did a funny’, which got picked up by the reviewer singing my praises but failing to mention my name, so I felt I couldn’t use it and that made me think: “Ah fuck it”.

Peter The bad ones are wittier.

JonI will never forget playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors at university, where I apparently “coped admirably with being too handsome for the role”. There I was, coping with my massive handsomeness.

Vivian Even the nice ones aren’t great either. I got a nice review, but it essentially was calling me fat. My size had nothing to do with the part, why would it? But in saying how much he loved my performance, the reviewer had to say he thought I was fat.

JonDon’t get me started on reviewers and weight.

Annie I don’t pay much attention to reviews. Although, I definitely plugged some good ones on my website. So maybe I do.

Peter I do want to know what people think – even if it’s bad. Though not from my friends in the pub straight after the show.

Annie Ah yes – are these official reviews or ‘friends adding their bit’ reviews?

Vivian That happens so often.

Albert I hate it when actors ask straight afterwards “What did you think? What did you think?”, I once told someone. I have not spoken to her for about 18 years.

Peter I never ask. Silence says it all.

Annie I just say well done and get on with drinking or talking about all that gossip we have to catch up on.

Albert “Well, you’ve done it again.”

Jon“Saw you!”

Peter A friend was described in one review as “adequate”. What a killer.

JonOh that’s horrible. The faint praise.

Albert Be grateful for small mercies. It’s better than inadequate.

JonIt’s when there’s a whiff of phrasemaking. There are some critics who can express a negative opinion without making you want to pack it all in.

Peter I was very sad when the Guardian sacked Lyn Gardner.

JonWhen we did Othello at the National Theatre, our review in the New York Times (clang) contained the line: “Hytner has assembled a near-faultless ensemble.” So of course everyone other than the leads was like: “Is it me? I bet it’s me. I’m the fault.”

Peter Do you remember those old films where everyone congregated in Sardi’s, waiting for the papers to come out?

Albert The rolling press headlines flying across the screen.

JonI remember going to the Scotsman offices in Edinburgh at midnight during the fringe to get the next day’s edition. It’s a posh hotel now.

Albert These days, of course, any twat can post a review on the internet, so they become worthless. Five stars from ‘Gitinacardie’ is of no worth whatsoever, so it’s easier to dismiss the lot of them.

JonI’d love to be the kind of person who doesn’t read them, but it’s just… there are people talking about our show and I want to know what they’re saying.

Peter Agreed. I can’t resist them.

Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email greenroom@thestage.co.uk

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