Monday, March 23, 2009

Bouquets and Brickbats

A heavenly scent pervades the house and the goodies below are the culprits – well three of them at least. A brickbat is not quite so welcome and I think the overly harsh review by Charles Spencer – theatre critic of the Daily Telegraph – qualifies as a humdinger of one. ‘A night of theatrical torture’ is his take on ‘Madame de Sade’ at Wyndham’s theatre and ‘the kindest thing one can say about this cruelly punishing play is it’s lovely when it stops.’


All fair enough but where I take exception is when he makes a personal attack on actors. Actors are not brainless luvvies - they have feelings – if you prick them they bleed. Charles Spencer had great success with his description of Nicole Kidman as theatrical Viagra but when he describes one of our most distinguished actresses (is there any theatrical award she hasn’t won many times over) as coming ‘on in the formidable old-boot mode she has honed playing such roles as Queen Victoria, Lady Bracknell, Elizabeth 1 and M in the Bond movies, and spends the whole night looking grand, sour and cross.’ I wonder what on earth has rattled his cage.


‘The poor woman is also landed with a series of ridiculously elaborate frocks and wigs that make her look like one of those crinoline dolls Blackpool landladies use to cover up the spare lavatory roll.’


Shame on you Mr Spencer. Call me old-fashioned and I know you are expected to be contentious but show a little respect please.


I was sad to hear Dame Judi Dench fell and badly sprained her ankle when leaving the theatre and hope she will be back on stage before long.

18 comments:

kenju said...

He's nasty!! I've never seen Judi Dench in anything I couldn't sit through more than once! She's wonderful.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Sadly, it seems that people of Mr Spencer's ilk, take great pleasure in dimissing the talents of people who dare to be successful.

Insecurity is such a terrible thing.

problemchildbride said...

The only critics I pay attention to with any regularity are James Wood and Clive James. Their criticism, even when it's negative, lacks the gratuitous invective of some of the newspaper hacks who have that desperate stink about them of trying to appear more substantive than they are.

scarlet-blue said...

Do Blackpool Landladies, like he describes, still exist?
Anyhow, the flowers look lovely.
Sx

PI said...

Judy: I just hope it doesn't put her of appearing on the stage. It can't be easy in one's seventies

Jimmy: I've often read his reviews and I don't remember ever feeling so annoyed

sablonneuse said...

He must have been in a particularly bad mood to write such a nasty critique but that's no excuse. . . . .

PI said...

Sam: Clive James has given me some memorable giggles over the years. I wonder if there is any sort of gentleman's agreement amongst critics, concerning how personal they ccan get about an actor.

Scarlet: I haven't been to Blackpool for many a long year but I hope it hasn't changed too much -loo ladies crinolines and all.

Sandy: it was quite irascible for him.

notesfromthefrugaltrenches.com said...

How unkind!

Poor Dame Judi, hopefully she recovers soon. She is a woman filled with grace & dignity. Something for me to aspire to!

apprentice said...

I plead guilty of having a quick giggle.

What is her part like, does it call for more than a sour pus as we say up here?

She probably doesn't read her notices ant more anyway.
I like her in most things except that lame sit com.

problemchildbride said...

The tricky thing about live performances is that they depend so much on the reaction of fickle humans which depends on how they feel on any given night, whether they're too hot, have sore feet, didn't like their dinner, are just in a bad mood etc. I think a theatre critic should be required to see a performance at least twice before he or she writes a review. You can often get amazingly different things out of the same play at different times.

PI said...

Notesfrom: she also has a wicked sens of fun and I can't imagine she was enjoying this particular role.

Anna: naughty! I think as the whole play was slated she would have been conscious of the fact- probably gloom all round. She has never been my favourite actress although I thought she was great in the film 'Notes on a Scandal' when she was playing against type. I suppose I related to her trying to continue against all the mounting ageing odds and being sneered at by some sour critic. Then when I read about the ankle...
Let's hope she'll say 'sod 'em!' and get back in the saddle:) Crinoline and all.

Sam: that's a good idea. I'm sure all of them will be happy to work double time on each theatrical event. Shall you tell them or me:) Maybe I was being ultra sensitive on her behalf but MTL read it and not caring deeply, thought it was practically libellus.

R. Sherman said...

If he's going after Judi Dench, he's going to have to come through me first.

Cheers.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This makes my blood boil! He sounds like such an ass...! I never think it is fair to attack actors in a below-the belt fashion....And someone like Dame Judy....PLEASE!!!
I am sorry to read she has hurt her ankle....I hope it wasn't a fall coming out of a reaction to this reviewer....!
I agree with your commenter who said that Critics/Reviewers should be required to see a play more than once....And how true that how one feels on any given night can change how one feels about a theatre performance....I find that true in myself: Often I will watch a movie I felt "iffy" about a second time...and there is no question I get more out of seeing it a second time---sometimes, even a third...! And often I feel completely different and more in favor of whatever film---But it also has worked the other way, too....I see things that solidify what my original reservations were about....! But, I am NOT a critic and what I think or write isn't going to make or break any given play or movie.
Here in the U.S. The main critice for The New York Times can kill a play with his one review---as if he is the only game in town, and, in a way, I guess he is! (Ben Brantley)....But that is just wrong....Does this so-called critic carry that kind of weight or is it that he wishes he did?

Now that I am able to get around a bit here in Blogland, My Computer is SOOOOO S-L-O-W....I have some severe problems with it...Hoping to get the "fixer" here at the end of the week....The good ones are ALL always busy, busy, busy.

Kanani said...

Constructive criticism is an art. Spender was venting some spleen. I think it reflects poorly of him, and well, I can't help but think while he probably thinks he's hilarious when he's writing, his self centeredness is just spiteful.

PI said...

Randall: I expect he is already regretting it.

Naomi: I've been reading him for years and never had a problem with him before. He is quite an important critic and wrote very honestly about his earlier alcoholism and I admired the way he dealt with it. I'm glad you also feel outraged. It did seem gratuitous sniping. Do you remember the power of Clive Barnes in the NY theatre and I believe he was British.
I was afraid the fall could have been connected but it may be my vivid imagination. She is 74 after all and I can imagine how I would feel after such a review and months of hard work and a long night on stage. On the other hand actors are tough - they have to be.

PI said...

Kanani: you're right - it was spiteful.

Guyana-Gyal said...

I read Clive James' book, Unforgettable Memoirs, he's delicious!

Yes, why do critics have to be nasty when they can do it with style? Hm, maybe some can't.

PI said...

GG: that's definitely one for a re- read. Ken Tynan was a great one with the acid drop words. Olivier knew his onoions and got him on board at the National. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer:)