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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily that is e-mailed to subscribers every morning (to subscribe, send message to, and is also available online here.

My weekly THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS round-up of my columns and news tweets of the week, from myself and others, from the West End to Broadway and beyond. Including the sale of @TheOtherPalace (pictured) to @BKL_Productions.



n an interview with DoIminic Cavendish in today’s Daily Telegraph, producer David Pugh goes into battle against premium pricing.

“For me, they’re greedy. The standard line about premium seats is that if there are people willing to pay that price, why not take the money? But if there’s a really expensive seat next to a not-so-expensive one, you think ‘What’s the difference?’ It degrades the value of a normal seat.” He maintains that prices should reflect the cost of the show, shouldn’t be confusing and shouldn’t turn theatre-going into a rare luxury. “High prices for one show affect the others.

For his new show, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* (* SORT OF), opening at the Criterion this Wednesday, Cavendish writes he’s putting his monetary policy where his mouth is. “The top price is £59.50, going down in increments of £10, to £9.50 cheapest. No booking fees, all inclusive. I’m trying to get a clearer message to people – it’s quite a lonely battle.”

I feel the same about my battle to get SOLT, UK THEATRE and the theatres themselves to take COVID safety seriously. Peter Marks, theatre critic of the Washington Post, who has just spent a fortnight in London, tweeted yesterday that thanks to wearing his mask, he stayed COVID negative, and added: ” I love this city but this country is out of its collective mind.” 

One replied,

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Talking of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE * (* SORT OF), Guardian critic Arifa Akbar tweeted on the weekend about enjoying a convivial Soho lunch with two fellow critics on Saturday, that she has hashtagged with a reference to that show.

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So I made the understandable assumption that that is where they were headed; and moreover, I wondered aloud if the lunch was at the gift of the producer, since he has previously done exactly that — a few years ago, when Pugh opened a show called Ducktastic!, critics were invited to Sheekey’s for lunch before the matinee.

Afrifa tweeted not once, not twice but three times that I was incorrect, and that they’d paid their own way (plus she’d seen the show the night before, in fact). I replied that I believed her the first time. The producer backed her up, too, tweeting this:

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I’m happy to stand corrected. But Arifa also insisted that she would NEVER accept hospitality from a producer before reviewing their show. When I asked if that also applied at the Menier, which also feeds (some) critics before their shows, or the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, which laid on free pizza for critics at this summer’s opening night of CAROUSEL, she promptly accused me of being obsessed, and blocked me.

But the fact is it’s a question of transparency and hypocrisy; you can’t claim one thing while on other occasions doing another.

The New York Times actually forbids its critics from accepting ANY hospitality; once when I was at Stratford, Ontario with that paper’s former deputy critic Charles Isherwood, he was careful not to let the PR pay for any of his meals. (But we did take turns in paying for ice cream at the local Dairy Queen!)

But where, too, do you draw the line? Critics are routinely offered a free glass of wine or orange juice at first nights — even publicly funded places like the National do it, so in a sense the taxpayer is helping pay for this.

Of course the intention, whether its a lunch or a drink, is to make the experience a more convivial one; it doesn’t, nor should it, impact on your review. But as another reader suggested, perhaps its time for critics to declare such interests in their reviews.

I now undertake to do so.

I am also now also reporting mask wearing in theatres. My Saturday experience at Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham Rep is here.

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Theatre Birthdays (NOVEMBER 1): Toni Collette, 49 (pic: In THE WILD PARTY, with Mandy Patinkin, on Broadway in 2000); Miriam Teak Lee, 27 (pic: in & JULIET at the Shaftesbury Theatre)

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