Rogues & Vagabonds

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

Thought for the Day • THEATRENOW.COM TAKES THE PISS • 2003

logoroguesA patronising, piss-taking generalization pops up in today’s theatrenow newsletter. We expect it in most publications, obsessed as they are with the idea that all performers are egotistical ‘luvvies’. Coming from a web site specifically geared to celebrating and promoting theatre, we find this particularly crass. One day soon, even the most desperate for publicity will avoid giving interviews to these publications.

‘In case you didn’t know,’ runs the newsletter, ‘actors are a funny bunch with more than their fair share of superstitions’.

Perhaps the acting profession does have more than its fair share but so what!

The newsletter continues: ‘An inherent need for attention coupled with a rampant ego is cearly [sic] fertile ground for all sorts of nonsensical beliefs’.

Here we go — every single actor is a raving egomaniac blah blah blah. Some are, some aren’t, just as are some journalists and some members of the human race. And, in any case, not all actors take note of these superstitions. Of those that do, many are merely maintaining a theatrical tradition, rather than being superstitious. Do journalists have no superstitions or traditions that might appear ludicrous to others?

The newsletter goes on to talk about Macbeth: ‘I hope you didn’t read that aloud or all manner of misfortune is bound to come your way. Yeah, right’.

Actually, no — you’d have to be working in a theatre for that superstition to apply.

There’s more: ‘Next time some theatrical type lets slip the name of the ‘Scottish play’, remind them the only way to beat the curse, according to Cassell’s Companion To Theatre, is to “immediately leave the room, turn around three times, break wind or spit, knock on the door and ask permission to re-enter”. Refuse to grant it.’

Isn’t that pleasant? Now, how can we take the piss out of this type of journalist?

And talking of The Scottish Play, ‘why is Macbeth considered an ‘unlucky’ play?’ asks Peter Mottley elsewhere on our site. ‘Forget all the fables and so-called legends of people dying on stage, or scenery collapsing, or performances being cancelled. The reality is far more mundane. The play has always been a sure-fire crowd-puller. Deservedly so: it’s a great play. Unfortunately, the 18th Century had virtually no great plays of its own (The Beaux Stratagem (1707), The Beggar’s Opera (1728), then nothing until Sheridan and Goldsmith in the late 1770s). Consequently, theatre producers took a chance on all sorts of second-rate plays — and frequently bombed out. If they had too many turkeys in a row, they would frequently try to cut their losses by putting on a production of Macbeth. Gradually, the word went round: if you’re putting on Macbeth, you must be in trouble. Hence the play’s association with failure — and bad luck.’

Sarah Vernon © 2003
NB To be perfectly frank, I’m not sure if this was written by me or not! It sounds like me and I do get on my high horse when someone takes the piss out of my profession, but I can’t be sure. I published no byline on the original. Incidentally, the only TheatreNow that seems to exist these days is about theatre in Sydney.

Originally posted on R&V 26-06-03

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