That was the Week That Was….

Mark ShentonFeatures, Include in homepage slide?Leave a Comment

The week in theatre tweets, columns and reviews in London, the regions, Broadway and more, June 6-June 12


Tomorrow Boris Johnson will be forced to do the thing he hates most as a leader: namely, make a decision, on a potentially unpopular position. He already has a vociferous opposition, namely the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and Andrew Lloyd Webber (see above), who have been leading the charge against delaying Step Four of his “cautious, irreversible” roadmap out of lockdown that he laid out earlier in the year.

Of course, facts have changed — both for and against sticking to that roadmap. On the one hand, we’ve seen a successful roll-out of vaccines that has now reached the most seriously vulnerable, but still not everybody (though under 30s are now able to book them); but on the other, we’re seeing growing rates of infection and hospitalisations once again, if not (yet) mass fatalities, as different variants have inevitably emerged, like the Delta one, that are proving exponentially more infectious.

The immense difficulty posed to the theatre industry, of course, is that many have predicated their plans for re-opening on the promised abandonment of all social distancing restrictions from June 21. And while smaller shows have worked out a way to cover their costs at 50% capacity that has seen some of them return already, it is unsustainable for shows with higher running costs to re-open at that level.

So should a delay — widely tipped to be for up to a month — be imposed tomorrow, it will throw re-opening plans wildly off course, with the most immediate ‘victims’ being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella (which plans to begin performances at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on June 25 prior to an official opening `on July 14), and the viability of the already twice postponed run of a revival of Hairspray to the Coliseum (from June 21, whose opening weeks have already been sold with social distancing still in place); and the re-opening of Pretty Woman at a new venue, the Savoy (from July 8). Other new and returning shows have been more cautious, and have been selling themselves, like Hairspray, with social distancing still in place already for the initial parts of their runs; The Prince of Egypt, returning to the Dominion from July 1, for instance, will operate with social distancing throughout the venue in place for performances up to September 4, which shows not only great foresight but also proper respect for an audience who may initially be uncomfortable with a return to fuller capacities. (They can, of course, also presumably afford to do so, as the Dominion is so very big).

Of course, what is being lost and forgotten in all of this is that June 21 was never a date that was ever set in stone; it was only ever going to be confirmed a week ahead of its arrival; it was a ‘no earlier than’ date rather than a guaranteed one. Of course theatre can’t reignite at a week’s notice; shows need to be rehearsed (or re-rehearsed) and prepared to resume operation, especially after such a sustained period of closure. But theatre producers were forded to make the unenviable decision whether to trust in that date being held to. Now, once again, it looks like the loss will be theirs, just as it was in December when a new lockdown was imposed soon after they’d be actively encouraged to return in time for Christmas.

We will find out tomorrow. I expect a great gnashing of teeth in theatre land.


In less nationally significant news, I found myself in the unwitting eye of a social media storm on Friday. I’m used to attracting some controversy; as a critic, since you give it so freely, you cannot be surprised if you occasionally get it, too. People are not always going to agree with me. And although back in the day, critics might occasionally get a letter sent to their editors about their opinions, which the paper may or may not have published, nowadays readers have an automatic response mechanism they can use — and reach the offending critic personally.

I’m not going to re-rehearse the offence I caused, except to say it was a column I published here last Tuesday that initially garnered quite a lot of quiet support: I received a lot of private messages via Twitter, Facebook and text agreeing with the position I took. But it was intriguing (and with hindsight, notable) that no one was prepared to say what I said publicly; then on Friday, an American actor, who has been resident in London since appearing here in the transfer of a Broadway show in which he had understudied the lead but then progressed to the lead role here, posted a video on social media, directly addressed to me (though I wasn’t tagged, so only knew about it when people started replying to it, and including me in their messages).

He was soon joined by another American actor, also now based here, who posted replies calling me out, too.

I heard what both were saying, and within a short period of time, I had deleted my original column and replaced it with a statement that said this:

And that should have been that. But as in all things Twitter, it’s never enough that you apologise; I continued to be attacked and vilified by the Twitter thought police for having expressed the opinion in the first place. And many of the accusers were, of course, white — telling me I couldn’t speak to how black people read my column, even as they were themselves speaking to exactly that! And patronisingly instructing me to educate myself better.

Well, it HAS taught me a lot. I shouldn’t — and can’t — speak for others (as I had mistakenly attempted in trying to ameliorate he social media pile on to another actor that precipitated my column); I can only ever speak for myself.

And more personally, it forced me to reconsider my position here: yesterday I took time out of doing my regular column here for the first time since January.

As this is not (yet) paid journalism, per se, but a personal site from which I benefit by creating and building my presence, I simply also give away too much of myself here for free. So I am going to scale back on the seven-day commitment I brought to it, and will now only publish four times a week.

These will be on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, following this schedule:

SUNDAYS: That Was the Week round-up of the week’s news in London, around the country and on Broadway.

MONDAYS: My weekly “This is the Week (and Beyond) That Is” update of returning and new shows in London, beyond London, in New York, and at festivals.

WEDNESDAYS: A weekly comment piece on an issue of theatrical importance or just discussion.

FRIDAY: Every other Friday, a column related to my bi-weekly ShenTens podcast; or another piece from my personal archive.

I will also review regularly on this site, too, as new shows open, in London and beyond.

I will still publish my ShentonSTAGE Daily e-mail bulletin of the day’s news, reviews and columns, from Sunday to Friday. To subscribe and keep up-to-date on everything happening in theatreland, send an e-mail to: ShentonStageMailingList@gmail.com, and I’ll add you.

MY COLUMNS AND REVIEWS OF THE WEEK

Sunday June 6

Monday June 7

Tuesday June 8

(NOTE: this column was taken down on Friday June 11; as per statement above)

Wednesday June 9

And some further commentary/controversy:

Thursday June 10

Friday June 11

Saturday June 12

REVIEWS AND REVIEW TWEETS OF THE WEEK

LONDON HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

REGIONAL/ TOURING AND FESTIVAL HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

BROADWAY (& OFF) HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

FILM NEWS OF THE WEEK

EXECUTIVE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE WEEK:

SOME FAVOURITE TWEETS OF THE WEEK

AND FINALLY, SOME PERSONAL TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *