Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily that is e-mailed to subscribers every morning (to subscribe, send message to ShentonStageMailingList@gmail.com), and is also available online here.
THE RSC INTRODUCES MANDATORY FACE COVERINGS
Yesterday the RSC announced that effective today it is mandating the wearing of face coverings within its buildings and performances at its home base Stratford-upon-Avon. (It is only a tenant at the Barbican, where its summer production of The Comedy of Errors is currently playing).
In their statement, they said:
“The only exceptions to this are for those who are exempt from wearing face coverings, those under 11 years old, and when eating or drinking during your visit. If you are not exempt, then refusal to comply with this new arrangement will mean you will not be permitted access to our buildings…. We will refund tickets if bookers are unable to comply with this requirement, please contact our Box Office and we will make the necessary arrangements. Our ventilation systems, especially within the Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium, are extremely effective, so you shouldn’t feel concerned about the presence of people who are exempt from wearing face coverings. Everyone is welcome and our intention is to provide as comfortable and safe a visit as possible.”
Despite the monumental failure of leadership by SOLT and UK Theatres, who’ve issued ‘recommendations’ only that people continue to wear masks, this proves that it IS within the power of individual theatres to bring in measures to keep their audiences safe.
It is just a fear of putting off audiences who do not wish to comply that means that theatres have, so far, resisted this; but with the severity of the threat from the new Omiron variant as yet unknown, it makes sense, from a purely self-interested point of view, to be proactive in messaging audiences that they are taking this seriously.
Otherwise theatres may find themselves trapped in the worst of both worlds: a libertarian audience refusing to go to theatres because they don’t want to be policed, but the rest of usnot wanting to go because they’ll feel unsafe.
While England — ruled from Westminster by Boris Johnson — continues to resist imposing ANY rules on the public, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon yesterday was saying:
Wouldn’t it be similarly great if every West End and UK theatre asked its audiences to test themselves — and present proof of it when they arrived? But given their failure to even insist on masking, I doubt it is going to happen anytime soon.
OPENINGS ON THE HORIZON
I’m revamping my weekly update of new shows in London and beyond to the regions and New York from next week, turning it into a calendar list led by opening nights (or first previews if an opening night is not available). It doesn’t aim to be comprehensive of every opening, but will offer a snapshot of the major theatre events to look out for, including press contacts.
In a “lull before the storm” week, there’s just one big opening THIS week on Thursday (Dec 2),, which I’ll be reviewing on my website on Friday.
- Life of Pi (Wyndham’s Theatre) Press night December 2. Lolita Chakrabarti’s stage version of Yann Martel’s epic story of endurance and hope, first seen at Sheffield’s Crucible in 2019 in a production directed by Max Webster, is finally due to transfer to the West End in November, after being delayed by COVID-19. Press contacts: Nada Zakula firstname.lastname@example.org / David Bloom email@example.com at Storyhouse PR. https://www.lifeofpionstage.com
THE SHAME OF THE UNGRACIOUS OBITUARY
I know that obituaries don’t have to be full of unguarded praise, obviously, but former Guardian opera critic Tom Sutcliffe’s for The Guardian, published online on Sunday (extract below) for Stephen Sondheim, is particularly ungracious, grudging and galling. (What a pity Michael Coveney didn’t do it instead, whose regular theatre obituaries for the same paper are models of tact, judgement and knowledge).
It is difficult to prove that an obituarist has some kind of axe to grind, but I know from personal experience what a Sondheim bore Mr Sutcliffe is — and once had the misfortune of bearing witness to him boring the pants off the maestro himself. At the 2011 Critics Circle lunch honouring Sondheim as the recipient of our annual Distinguished Achievement in the Arts award, I was seated on one side of Sondheim (as the then-chair of the drama section), while Sutcliffe was on the other (as the then-President of the circle).
It was truly excruciating hearing him holding forth on HIS views, instead of allowing Sondheim to share his own as our honoured guest; but I was at least delighted to have been able to arrange an intimate cabaret of some of his songs, performed at the event by Maria Friedman, which I know delighted him. It is in the performance of his work that Sondheim will, of course, live on; not in the dusty opinions of detractors like Sutcliffe.
TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS
Gael Garcia Bernal, 43; John Bishop, 55; David Mamet, playwright & Donald Trump supporter, 74; Mandy Patinkin, 69 (pic: EVITA, 1979); Ben Stiller, 56 (Pic: In THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES, B’way 2011)
SEE YOU TOMORROW
See you in your inbox or here online tomorrow. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends)