Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Speaking of Critical Sobriety...

Timberlake Wertenbaker's latest, The Line, opened in London to mixed reviews. But there was something...in the air...and in the blood at this particular opening:

Wertenbaker believes that the actors were not given a fair crack of the whip because many of the critics had spent the day being liberally wined and dined at the Evening Standard theatre awards – a four-hour affair at the Royal Opera House that involved a champagne reception followed by lunch and as much wine as they wanted to drink. She said some critics had had the grace to say they would come on a different night, but most came after the lunch.

Wertenbaker told the Guardian: "I've had bad press nights and bad reviews but I've never had the sense that the critics were too tired to engage. It is a complicated play, it's difficult, you have to pay attention to it.

"I just felt that the play didn't have a chance. The actors said they had a great night the previous evening and the atmosphere was very different. They did feel they were wading through something quite heavy. They weren't all drunk but it's hard to get through something like that [a long awards ceremony] without being tired. It was very unfortunate that our press night was after it."


Anonymous said...

What a nightmare, or injustice rather, for the actors, crew, etc. of The Line. I went to grad school in Ireland, and it wasn't uncommon for people to have drinks before shows...but someone attending a show for fun, or even a student who has to write a mock-review, is an entirely different matter from someone with press power reviewing a show and not being sharp and attentive because of champagne goggles.

George Hunka said...

Wertenbaker's remarks would be damning -- if they were true, and it appears they weren't, not entirely. The Guardian post goes on:

"The critics have a different account. Mark Shenton, the non-drinking theatre critic for the Sunday Express and The Stage, said the problem lay with the play: 'Actors, writers, directors do from time to time attempt to discredit critics as a distraction from their own bad work.'

"He was echoed by Charles Spencer of the Telegraph, who hasn't had a drink in nine years. 'I stayed awake throughout the entire play and I rather wish I hadn't. It's just a very, very dull play. I think she's being a bit silly.'"

The play actually received moderately good reviews from The Guardian's Michael Billington and the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts. I fear this is just another one of those instances of TalkWriting, as Nick Fracaro has it: a largely unsubstantiated accusation, more in the form of rumor, that nonetheless seems to have achieved a certain life in the blogosphere, not because it's true, but because some people would like it to be true.

One can always accuse one of CWI (Criticizing While Intoxicated), but what are you going to do? Issue Breathalyzer tests to reviewers when you think they've crossed over the white lines?

Art said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Art said...

Maybe a fair point, George, but the blame might not be with the blogosphere, but rather the Guardian.

Your near certainty that Wertenbaker is a liar and a gossip is nowhere reflected in that piece. But your point that she may be, is well taken.

The witnesses for the defense, if you will, don't even come close to addressing her accusation.

I will say, you might need to write a blog post in the Guardian addessing this. You're probably right, they shouldn't be putting a story like this out there if they want to remain a credible publication.

George Hunka said...

If Shenton and Spencer's remarks were not indeed a part of the same Guardian piece from which you extract Wertenbaker's remarks, Art, you'd be right. And besides, if they don't "address her accusation," what could they say that would constitute such an address? But people who don't click through from your excerpt wouldn't know that.

My citation of Nick's TalkWrite didn't have to do with the Guardian, but the way in which Wertenbaker's remarks (which were speculation, perhaps; I don't think she deliberately lied or gossiped but only reported on what she observed, and of course she does have a vested interest in reporting it, so can't be construed an objective observer) have gone unrebutted on those blogs which have reported it.

As some commenters mentioned at Nick's post, the blogosphere is not alone in reporting gossip, unsubstantiated rumors, etc., as fact. But the Guardian, which did run what might be called "the opposing view," isn't at fault.

Thomas Garvey said...

For all the author knows, a little critical wooziness may have helped her notices. I always take a drink before heading to certain theatres around here!