Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Did You Hear…? • A BILIOUS ATTACK • 2007

Did you hear about Nicholas Hytner’s ‘cri de bile’, as Nicholas de Jongh put it, against our national critics of the male variety? Although I have some sympathy with Hytner’s view that several of our long-standing theatre critics have become entrenched in their attitudes, and have always felt that there needed to be a much wider response to work from a variety of ages, sexes and backgrounds – the ethos behind Rogues & Vagabonds – for him to launch this stinging rebuke after the slating of a particular production ill-becomes the National Theatre‘s artistic director.

Hytner would have achieved far more if he had made his views known when he had had time to consider. His knee-jerk reaction on top of stinging reviews for A Matter of Life and Death serves only to drive a further wedge between practitioners and commentators and achieves nothing except a war of words.

The tirade provoked a reaction from Guardian critic Lyn Gardner, which some have seen as a direct insult to her colleague on the newspaper, Michael Billington. Gardner agreed with Hytner’s assessment that the critical profession was dominated by ‘dead white men’, all of whom slammed Kneehigh’s take on Powell and Pressburger’s original film. But not all the female reviewers were in favour: Georgina Brown (The Mail on Sunday) was unimpressed with Tom Morris and Emma Rice’s adaptation, although Kate Bassett (The Independent) and Susannah Clapp (The Observer) enjoyed it.

It does make me sigh. What is the point of all this ill-feeling? Can’t we all put our toys back in the cupboard and have a grown-up debate about Theatre and Criticism?

Sarah Vernon © 2007

Originally published on R&V 24-05-07

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