July 28: Untold stories that remain untold

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Plus Cinderella sets (yet another) new press night

Just as Boris Johnson is blessed with a mostly compliant media — and in particular the BBC who simply will not challenge his habitual lying in and to parliament, with parliament itself censuring instead the MP Dawn Butler who dared to mention it in the Commons — so the theatre world is happily, for its own purposes at least, to have a press that simply promotes it, instead of investigating exactly what is going on.

When a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, planned for Glastonbury Abbey, was recently cancelled, the producers issued the following statement:

This was amidst a public campaign for more representation of people of colour amongst the ranks of actors who play the brothers (given that they’re supposed to be of Egyptian extraction, it had been asked why they were so pale), but that provided convenient cover for a more problematic backstage story concerning a key member of its creative team, who is also currently absent from the rehearsal rooms of another show he had previously worked on and is now being revived.

Likewise, the sudden resignation last week of a senior executive from LW Theatres to “take some time to enjoy life” and spend time with her daughter, before exploring where the “next chapter will take her” was parroted verbatim from a statement, sounding not at all dissimilar to disgraced politicians who choose to spend more time with their families.

Of course no one wants to end up in legal jeopardy for repeating potential libels if the alleged reasons are untrue. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Scott Rudin’s long histories of offensive behaviour were pretty much an open secret in the industry, but no one was bold or brave enough to expose them — thus enabling them to continue doing what they were doing.

“Me too” — and more recently Black Lives Matter — were supposed to have been moments of reckoning, when such behaviours and discrimination were no longer going to be tolerated.

Yet the silence around the true facts of these cases continues to be deafening.


CINDERELLA SETS (YET ANOTHER) NEW PRESS NIGHT

After the hastily aborted press night that was planned for last Monday ahead of last Tuesday’s planned opening, Andrew Lloyd Webber has written to the critics — myself included — to formally invite us to the show’s first performance back on August 18.

As he wrote,

“I am sorry about the problems that there have been in finding a night for you to come to review Cinderella. The production has been the victim from everything from an injury to our leading man to, well, you know the rest… Whilst I am almost despairing of saying that we will finally be able to perform on Wednesday August 18th for the first time since our enforced lockdown, I would like to invite you to that performance. I sincerely hope you will be able to join us that night, as I sincerely hope that we will be able to give it. Otherwise, you might be able to find me at a funny farm near you.” 

The choice of night, however, is highly unusual, as the company won’t have performed in front of an audience for over 4 weeks at that point, but the critical horse has already bolted, so there’s no point locking the stable door now, as I previously pointed out here on Monday, when Quentin Letts reviewed the preview he saw before it closed in last weekend’s Sunday Times culture section.

Of course, Lloyd Webber might be emboldened by the five-star rave Letts awarded the show. The rest of us have yet to see the show, but will make up our own minds when we do.

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