ShentonSTAGE Daily for FRIDAY DECEMBER 3

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Welcome to today’s (delayed!) edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily (Please feel free to forward this e-mail to friends, and invite them to be added to this list!)

FAREWELL, SIR TONY….

Sir Antony Sher, RSC Honorary Associate Artist and husband to artistic director Greg Doran, has died, aged 72, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year.

He acted in many, many productions for the company, including a widely-celebrated performance in the title role of RICHARD III (pictured above, in 1984, directed by Bill Alexander); more recent roles include the title role in KING LEAR (directed by his husband) and John Kani’s KUNENE AND THE KING (his final stage role, that transferred to the West End’s Ambassadors Theatre in January 2020), pictured below).

In a press statement, Catherine Mallyon, RSC Executive Director and Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director, commented,

“We are deeply saddened by this news and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Greg, and with Antony’s family and their friends at this devastating time. Antony had a long association with the RSC and a hugely celebrated career on stage and screen….. Antony was deeply loved and hugely admired by so many colleagues. He was a ground-breaking role model for many young actors, and it is impossible to comprehend that he is no longer with us.”


ROSEMARY SQUIRE SAYS “WE SIMPLY CANNOT AFFORD TO TAKE A STEP BACKWARDS” WITH COVID


“While so much is still unknown about Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, we must also hold our nerve and do everything we can to ensure that our theatres stay fully open during the festive season and beyond.
With theatres already carrying out numerous safety procedures and vigorous testing regimes to protect us all, the Government’s ten-day isolation rule regarding Omicron is frankly unhelpful and damaging to an industry that is desperately trying to recover from the worst period in its history.

We simply cannot afford to take a step backwards.

With over 19m people having now received their booster vaccinations in the UK and the Government’s commitment to offering a booster jab to every adult by the end of January 2022, there is no need for such knee jerk reaction. These isolation rules for people who are healthy and double jabbed are unsustainable and disruptive for all businesses as we have clearly seen before, and we urge the Government to reconsider this decision urgently.”

Clearly once again, however, COMMERCIAL interests are outweighing very real PUBLIC HEALTH concerns. Whilst so much is unknown, surely now is the time to be MORE careful, not offer a knee-jerk reaction against being rightly cautious.

When I wrote to every theatre owner in the West End asking what their COVID risk assessments and air ventilation systems were, two didn’t even reply. One of them was Trafalgar Entertainment.

Meanwhile, former Culture Minister Oliver Dowden — never a character to inspire much confidence, it has to be said, who is now chairman of the Conservative party — was on the media rounds this morning, telling Sky News, ““The message to people is fairly straightforward, which is keep calm, carry on with your Christmas plans. We’ve put the necessary restrictions in place, but beyond that, keep calm and carry on.”

With that in mind, now may be precisely the point at which to start panicking….

REVIEWING THE SITUATION…
With all of the above, it seems almost foolish to return to the “night job” of being a critic, as there are right now far more important things to worry about than an endless run of shows to review, but it’s what I do.

And last night, I was at Wyndham’s, finally, to see the long-delayed West End transfer of LIFE OF PI from Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, where it originally premiered in the summer of 2019.

It had received rave reviews there — including a five-star rave from Mark Fisher for The Guardian, which carried a stand-first that called it “unmissable”, and called Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation “theatrically savvy”. Today’s re-review, from The Guardian’s now chief theatre critic Arifa Akbar, downgrades the show to a three-star review, complaining that “an older audience feels the lack of a finer, more subtle script to square up to the sophisticated visuals.”

There’s always a risk that a much-lauded show may underwhelm when it eventually transfers, especially one, in this case, that we’ve waited over two years to see; but I was both astonished and moved. It feels like War Horse on steroids in terms of its use of animal puppetry and gorgeous theatrical storytelling. What a heartfelt spectacle! My full review will appear in a column on Monday.

TODAY’S THEATRE BIRTHDAYS
Theatre birthdays (DEC 3): Brendan Fraser, 53; Julianne Moore, 61 (pic: in THE VERTICAL HOUR, Broadway, 2006); Paul Nicholas, 77 (pic: as Rum Tum Tugger, in the original 1981 production of CATS)

SEE YOU ON MONDAY
See you in your inbox or here online on Monday. But if you can’t wait that long, you can find me on Twitter @ShentonStage (though not as often on weekends)

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