We, the undersigned, gather that, after nearly 23 years, the Guardian is not renewing Lyn Gardner’s contract as a theatre critic (News, May 10 ).
We want to protest against this decision in the strongest terms and urge the Guardian to rethink. It is a rare critic who makes a real, positive difference to the profile and fabric of British theatre, but Lyn Gardner does.
While most critics attend the press nights of major established theatres, Lyn has been tireless in discovering and giving a platform for fringe work, experimental work from across the country and work that crosses artistic boundaries. Countless companies and theatremakers owe much of their standing and reputation to being championed early on by her.
We appreciate that the Guardian, like a lot of contemporary journalism, is facing unprecedented economic challenges and it has to make difficult choices about where to invest and where to cut. But cutting the contract of Britain’s most senior female theatre critic is itself a significant retrograde step – and cutting the contract of the only major critic in the country who champions regional and experimental work will have a major negative impact both on the capacity of British theatre to release new talent and on the Guardian’s ability to represent the vitality of our national culture.
The Guardian’s cultural coverage has for a long time been characterised by its interest in going beyond the mainstream, in bringing to national (even international) attention bold, challenging and risk-taking new work that points out possible paths into the future of our culture.
In theatrical terms, Lyn Gardner is the standard-bearer of that approach. Her dedication to this role is a key reason why the Guardian has remained a central newspaper for the creative community and for the growing communities nationwide who look to our rich culture in an effort to understand our increasingly challenging world. If the Guardian doesn’t renew her contract, it will inevitably lose the loyalty and respect of a significant part of its current readership.
We urge the Guardian to think again and to renew Lyn Gardner’s contract.
Felix Barrett (Punchdrunk), Julia Barry (Sherman Theatre), Mike Bartlett (playwright), Rachel Betts (theatre maker), Gemma Bodinetz (Liverpool Everyman Playhouse), Ira Brand (Forest Fringe), Louise Brealey (actor), Moira Buffini (playwright), Matt Burman (Cambridge Junction), Dan Bye (theatre maker), Chris Campbell (Royal Court Theatre), Lorne Campbell (Northern Stage), Helen Cole (In Between Time), Tim Cowbury (Made in China), Polly Creed (Power Play Theatre), Tim Crouch (writer and theatremaker), Padraig Cusack (Wales Millennium Centre), Stephen Daldry (director), Diana Damian Martin (critic),April De Angelis (playwright), Martin Derbyshire (Out of Joint), Oliver Dimsdale (Filter), Stella Duffy (Fun Palaces), Sharon Eckman (actor), David Edgar (playwright), David Eldridge (playwright), Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment), Daniel Evans (Chichester Festival Theatre), Eileen Evans (Forced Entertainment), Vicky Featherstone (Royal Court Theatre), Matt Fenton (Contact Theatre), Andy Field (Forest Fringe), Anna Fleischle (designer), Sarah Frankcom (Royal Exchange Theatre), Chris Goode (writer and theatremaker) , Vivien Goodwin (R&H Theatricals), Rupert Goold (Almeida Theatre), James Graham (playwright), Nic Green (theatremaker), Richard Gregory (Quarantine), David Greig (Royal Lyceum Theatre, playwright), Zinnie Harris (playwright), David Harrower (playwright), Cat Harrison (Artsadmin, non zero one), Tamara Harvey (Theatr Clwyd), Robert Hastie (Sheffield Theatres), Christopher Haydon (director), Leslie Hill (Curious), Joel Horwood (playwright), Wendy Houston (artist), Thomas John Bacon (Tempting Failure), David Jubb (Battersea Arts Centre), Lois Keidan (Live Art Development Agency), Alexander Kelly (Third Angel), Dennis Kelly (playwright), Fin Kennedy (Tamasha), Lucy Kerbel (Tonic), Bryony Kimmings (performance artist), Lucy Kirkwood, (playwright), Judith Knight (Artsadmin), Laura Kressly (critic), David Lan (director and playwright), Alan Lane (Slung Low), Jess Latowicki (Made in China), Rebecca Lenkiewicz (playwright), Catherine Love (critic), Laura McDermott (Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts), Phelim McDermott (Improbable Theatre), Ellen McDougall (the Gate), Alistair McDowall (playwright), Becka McFadden (LegalAliens), Duncan McMillan (playwright), Jay Miller (The Yard), Paul Miller (Orange Tree Theatre), Katie Mitchell (director), Tanya Moodie (actor), Tom Morris (Bristol Old Vic), Rory Mullarkey (playwright), Orla O’Loughlin, (Traverse Theatre), Rachel O’Riordan (Sherman Theatre), Gemma Paintin (Action Hero), Helen Paris (Curious), Lara Parmiani (LegalAliens), Deborah Pearson (Forest Fringe), Adam Penford (Nottingham Playhouse), Tim Phillips (Filter), Lucy Prebble (playwright), Stewart Pringle (playwright and dramaturg), Sarah Punshon (the Dukes Lancaster), Andrew Quick (Imitating the Dog), Dan Rebellato (playwright and academic), Ferdy Roberts (Filter), Jenny Sealey (Graeae), Timothy Sheader (Regents Park Open Air Theatre), Shelley Silas (writer), Penelope Skinner (playwright), Lisa Spirling (Theatre 503), James Stenhouse (Action Hero), Simon Stephens (playwright), Melly Still (director), Colin Teevan (playwright), Kully Thiarai (National Theatre of Wales), Jack Thorne, (playwright), Jenifer Toksvig (theatre maker), Nikki Tomlinson (Artsadmin), Lindsey Turner (director), Megan Vaughan ( critic), Matthew Warchus (Old Vic), Kate Wasserberg (Out of Joint), Cecilia Wee (Artsadmin), Deidan Williams (LegalAliens), Roy Williams (playwright), Carl Woodward (journalist), Aaron Wright (Fierce Festival), Caroline Wright (artist), Jo Wright (HQ Theatres), Jackie Wylie (currently CEO and Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland), Madani Younis (Bush Theatre)
I am concerned by the Guardian’s decision to remove Lyn Gardner. She has championed diversity and treated the fringe and West End equally, bringing an incisive, intelligent approach to everything she reviews.
I’ve found her trustworthy and ultimately have seen outstanding productions purely because of her reviews. Is this a sign that the Guardian is really suffering financially, that it cannot afford to keep quality authors? Are we to expect would-be reviewers turning in blog posts purely for the cost of exposure?
Whatever happens now, the Guardian should be careful to employ talented writers and pay them well, as its theatre section has been one of the strongest of any major newspaper – thanks largely to Gardner. I’m glad she retains her platform with The Stage.
Email address supplied
I would have thought the Guardian could have saved itself much more by just not reviewing football any more. It’s not like there aren’t already a gazillion other outlets for sport.
As a playwright working mainly in France, I have appreciated Lyn Gardner’s astute observations on British theatre for several years. Good critics are hard to come by; great critics can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The Guardian is not encouraging new subscribers by letting this excellent journalist go.
Lyn interviewed me in 1986. After the Time Out strike, she wrote for City Limits and championed my company Red Shift. She was one of half a dozen people who cleared a space for this south London oik to work. Despite some robust commentary, I am forever in her debt.
Shakespeare thrives UK-wide
In response to Lyn Gardner’s column (‘We have a Shakespeare problem ’, April 26), the biggest issue is the way those ‘doing Shakespeare’ are promoted, acknowledged and supported.
All too often, only big companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company  or the Donmar  are given column inches. Yet all over the country theatre companies are doing amazing work with Shakespeare. How often are they given the platform afforded to Chichester or the National?
For example, the Bridge Theatre’s recent Julius Caesar  was hailed by the national press, but were these papers aware that a similar production played to packed houses in a Guildford church the year before? It feels as if locally made and played work is increasingly overlooked.
Gardner also cites the RSC and Donmar’s “superb” education work: so it should be when it is funded by Arts Council England or large corporations. Guildford Shakespeare Company ’s education department challenges the perceptions of 4,000 children and adults every year on a tiny budget, in some of the poorest local areas.
We are not alone in delivering this engagement, but until this work, which inspires local pride, creativity and self-confidence, is widely celebrated, I fear Shakespeare will continue to suffer from this perceived ‘problem’.
Guildford Shakespeare Company
Quotes of the week
“Jane McDonald JUST WON A BAFTA – ALL IS GOOD IN THE WORLD! #BaftaTV I forgive you for being snobby luvvies for so many years.” – Journalist Dan Wootton, (Twitter)
“Unfortunately, we are at a stage where we can no longer depend on our stubborn and backward-thinking school principal to bring about the kind of change we want and need; it has to be forced. Quotas force change (rapid change). They force institutions to change. They hold institutions accountable.” – Steven Kavuma (Medium)
“Audiences and appetites are up, but traditional theatre criticism is in decline. We know papers face impossible financial choices. But true to her almost-surname @lyngardner cultivated and grew audiences and voices outside London and the mainstream. A sad and worrying direction of travel.” – Playwright James Graham (Twitter)
“We’ve been here lots of times before, I’ve spoken a lot about it – as have a lot of my peers. We all agree what the solutions can be but then nothing really happens. One would hope that Hamilton will mark a point and people will take advantage of this great opportunity.” – Actor Giles Terera (i)
“Cultural criticism in its traditional form is dying. It is being replaced by something entirely different: the internet phenomenon known as ‘fandom’.” – Journalist Rowland Manthorpe (Wired)
“The first acting I did was a kids’ play of ‘Bugsy Malone’ at my local community theatre. Those are the days when it was pure fun. It didn’t cost anything and there was no risk of failure. It was all pure play. I try to remember that as much as possible.” – Actor Andrew Garfield (New York Times)
“Thrilled for Mark Williams. A very moving comeback. In other news, I want to see a Lynda La Plante show called ‘Snooker Wives’.” – Actor Mark Gatiss on Williams’ victory in the World Snooker Championship (Twitter)
“To the lady in row A who decided to read her texts during Defying Gravity (the moment when the auditorium is the darkest)… I was giving you my best death stare and you missed it!!!” – Wicked star Alice Fearn (Twitter)