Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE, coming to you from my hospital room at the Schoen Clinic on Wigmore Street, where I spent three hours in an operating theatre instead of a regular theatre, though I was fast asleep for the entire show (not unlike some of my theatre colleagues have sometimes been on many a first night….)
OLIVIER AWARDS: AND NOW THE POST-MORTEMS….
Kevin Sessums, a noted New York cultural writer (once of Vanity Fair in its 90s Tina Brown heyday, and now a publisher of his own newsletter SES/SUMS IT UP on Substack), attended the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, and in a posting available publicly on Facebook, dubbed it “A Super Spreader event”.
Regular readers of this newsletter will already know that I share his utter disbelief at how unseriously SOLT — as represented by its soon-to-depart chief executive and Oliviers producer Julian Bird and the current President, producer Eleanor Lloyd — have dealt with getting their members to co-ordinate policy on mask wearing and COVID safety, which is to say, they’ve simply not.
Bird asserted that it was a different environment here with different rules than on Broadway where the Broadway League set rules that were adopted by EVERY theatre, with vaccine proof and compulsory mask wearing still enforced at EVERY theatre, too.
Even though New York City is now dropping vaccine and mask mandates at places like restaurants and bars, they continue in the theatre; and are RIGOROUSLY enforced. Even when it WAS the law of the land in Britain, SOLT theatres didn’t actually enforce it.
So it is hardly surprising that there was no mask wearing at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday. I’m relieved I wasn’t there.
In a column on Monday, Guardian chief critic Afrifa Akbar wrote in response to Cabaret’s seven wins and Life Of Pi’s five:
“The habit of finding one or two big winners felt oddly tunnel-visioned this year when it might have been the perfect opportunity to spread the love and recognition more widely.”
On Twitter, meanwhile, TIme Out theatre editor Andzrej Lukowski posted:
That is, however, to fundamentally misunderstand what the awards are for and how they are constructed. They’re there to reward excellence in the various and diverse departments that make up each show — and if those two shows represent the best achievements of the year in each of those disciplines, so be it. It’s not about spreading the love.
But more importantly, the way the awards are nominated and voted for means it is pretty much inevitable, given that both are drawn up by all members of SOLT, plus a few nominators appointed from industry figures and the public. apart from the appointed nominators, the others do not even have to have necessarily seen all the eligible shows; they therefore inevitably vote for the already most acclaimed shows that they may either have seen themselves, or heard a lot about. No wonder they coalesce around a few titles.
Sonia Friedman’s absence from the Oliviers…..
One thing that has been a virtual certainty for the last decade is a strong showing from producer Sonia Friedman in the Oliviers; purely on the basis of how prolific she is, it is almost inevitable.
But this year only two of her productions secured nominations — Emma Corrin for Best Actress in ANNA X at the Pinter (pictured above) and THE SHARK IS BROKEN for Best Comedy or Entertainment at the Ambassadors — but neither won, so SFP went home empty-handed.
I already noted on Monday that Andrew LLoyd Webber also went away empty-handed, with a sole nomination for CINDERELLA (for supporting actor Victoria Hamilton-Barrit) also going unawarded.
So there may finally be a power shift in the West End, especially since the Best Musical winner was BACK TO THE FUTURE — produced by Colin Ingram, once an in-house staff producer for Cameron Mackintosh Ltd — and the Best New Play was LIFE OF PI — produced by relatively new kid on the block Simon Friend.
Elliot Levy, Olivier winner for Cabaret, on family origins
In the wake of his Olivier win for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for playing Herr Schultz, the Jewish greengrocer who falls in love with the landlady Fraulein Schneider in CABARET, he wrote movingly in The Guardian on Monday, about the significance of the Jewish Passover ritual.
“It’s the liberation story of the Jewish people: the journey from slavery to freedom. I’m sitting in my dressing room – the “Isherwood room”, named after the writer whose Berlin Stories gave birth to our production of CABARET – with 10 extraordinarily liberated people. There are more pierced nipples and “wearable erotic accessories” in here than this sheltered man from Muswell Hill could shake a stick at. So, I keep my painfully heteronormative stick to myself.”
But if liberation is part of the story of CABARET, it is also the story of the Jewish people, and Elliot’s own family past.
“This year, maybe because my character Herr Schultz failed to escape, I will be thinking about a man who succeeded. A Ukrainian,called Elijah, who listened to the ancestral warning of Passover and made the decision to flee his home town of Kyiv, after two of his brothers were killed because a new despot had arisen with a taste for violence, just like the Pharaoh. He was lucky enough to find asylum in the UK. But, however current his story sounds, this was a long time ago. Elijah Zivatovsky of Kyiv was my grandfather. There is an exodus in every generation.”
How to turn 5 Olivier wins into 14 statuettes…..
On Twitter, Lolita Chakrabarti — adaptor of this year’s Olivier winner for Best New Play LIFE OF PI — showed how five Oliviers for that show can quickly become 14 Statuettes, when all those eligible to receive one get them. That, of course, includes the seven actors who shared the role of Tiger (Fred Davis, Daisy Franks, Domina Hytten, Tom Larkin, Habib Nasib Nader, Tom Stacy and Scarlet Wilderink), Best Actor (Hiran Abeysekera), set designers (Tim Hatley for set design and Finn Ross for video design) and lighting designers (Tim Lutkin and Andrej Goulding).
….and a not-so-funny Olivier Awards ‘joke’….
I know that the playbook for narcissistic trolls is to simply ignore them and their provocations — you’re only feeding their narcissistic need for attention by giving it to them — but I (and many, many other more important and famous theatre and entertainment figures) have been on the receiving end of Alex Belfied’s lies and disparagements, previously on his now-banned YouTube channel, and now continuing on his own website and Twitter account. And sometimes its necessary to set the record straight.
Yet he has also been weirdly courted by some, admittedly at the lower end of showbusiness like Jim Davidson, and is himself hosting a live show at Blackpool’s Joe Longthorne Theatre next month with Katie Hopkins (a man is truly known by the company he keeps).
That’s ahead of another public appearance — this time in a Nottingham court of law — in July to face charges of some 14 harrassment and stalking charges. But notwithstanding this, he is publicly harassing me — and defaming me, too.
He may be making a ‘joke’ about a made-up awards category, but the intention is clearly libellous, not satirical: he is dlirectly asociating me with paedophilia.
On Sunday he posted this tweet (since deleted):
And he is utterly obsessed with the fact that I lost a job at the SUNDAY EXPRESS when a former partner alerted them to the existence of naked pictures of myself online in 2013. I have never denied their existence, and on the very day after the paper fired me, I wrote a column owning it in THE STAGE. So as much as he likes to go on (and on) about it, the shame is all his that he’s obviously so attached to reminding the world (or at least the diminished, petty, warped and jealous one that he inhabits) about it.
SEE YOU ON FRIDAY
If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter, subject to the progress of my recovery, here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/.