Zero Stars Hall of Fame

The West End Whingers are proud to host the UK “Zero Stars Hall of Fame”, the repository of theatrical ignominy.

This archive is the official (as far as we are concerned) register of London shows that have received zero-star ratings in reviews written by critics in the mainstream media.

Do please alert us (you can use the comments box below) to any that you come across so that we make this page a comprehensive resource for theatre historians of the future. You will, of course, receive full credit as an Archive Assistant for your pains.

My City

Theatre: Almeida
Reviewer: Tim Walker
Organ: Sunday Telegraph
Date: 18 Sep 2011

Archive assistant: @ChrisA

It is quite simply the worst play I have seen [...] This is rubbish, Mr Poliakoff.

Anastasia

Theatre: New Players
Reviewer: Jeremy Kingston
Organ: The Times
Date: 06 Jan 2011
Archive assistant: Mark Shenton

This rotten show, billed as a pantomime, is not worth one star but is at least short, just 94 minutes (including a 20-minute interval) from the moment wicked Rasputin curses the Romanovs to the closing embrace between Princess Anastasia and her true love Dimitri.

Here is how the press release invites our interest: “Join Dimitri, with his outrageous mum Olga, as they take Anastasia to Paris to be reunited with the Grand Duchess and reclaim her place in the last Royal Family of Russia. But beware of Rasputin with his loveable sidekick Tushi as he tries to stop this dream coming true.”

Sometimes it is hard to stop preconceptions withering the thrill of anticipation, and here it was the prospect of a loveable sidekick that did it. Perhaps the actor would prefer to remain unnamed. He is Kit Allsopp. Few of us in the audience will have taken to his japes and gurning because when Stuart Brannan’s Rasputin, also tiring of his foolery, knocks him to the ground and asks us if he should kill him he is answered with a deafening “Yes!” This was evidently the wrong answer and some hasty ad libbing was needed to get the plot back on course.

But while the character of the loveable sidekick is merely tedious, that of the outrageous Olga is truly dreadful, a nightmare version of all that’s odious about pantomime dames. Hideously made-up, hideously bosomed, squealingly camp, dialogue larded with double entendres, this awful creature is played by John Triggs. Full review here.

Peter Pan

Theatre: New Wimbledon
Reviewer: Ian Shuttleworth
Organ: Financial Times
Date: 21 Dec 2010

This show is an object example of what I call the Postmodernist Defence: “Yes, it’s rubbish, but we know it’s rubbish, and that makes it good and us clever.” No, it makes you contemptuous and contemptible for insulting us with what you know to be rubbish. I had to make my own entertainment, which I did by playing “spot the occasional line from the actual play”. For children, there is less than nothing, only the horror of watching their parents regress into complete whooping infantilism. Ian Talbot’s production isn’t cheap or shoddy as such (although Spence is far less talented a dancer than he believes himself to be); what it does, it does with brio. But what it does is to moronically travesty all aspects of the seasonal family show. It is everything that both Peter Pan and panto shouldn’t be. Full review here.

It Had To Be You

Theatre: New End, Hampstead
Reviewer: Lyn Gardner
Organ: The Guardian
Date: 26 Nov 2010

Archive assistants: @ChrisA @OughtToBeClowns @alexneedham74

The New End theatre used to be a morgue, which is undoubtedly the best place for Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna’s excruciating 1980 comedy. … The problem with happy-ever-after is that it goes on for ever, like this play. … The writers can’t seem to stop themselves from throwing estranged or dead children on the merrily burning pyre of sentimental tosh when they can’t think of any other course of action. “I have no talent,” cries Vito as he considers giving up his career and becoming a full-time writer. It’s clearly not going to stop him or the deluded Theda, and it clearly didn’t stop the writers of this painfully contrived piece of wish-fufilment. Full review here.

Angela Unbound

Theatre: Leicester Square Theatre
Reviewer: Sam Marlowe
Organ: The Times
Date: 6 Aug 2010

Archive assistant: HH

Crude, and not in a clever way, every aspect of this production comes across as crass and puerile. Give it a miss… Perhaps [author William Whitehurst] imagines that his writing is bracingly anarchic and thrillingly outré. Instead, the piece, in an awkwardly directed and crassly acted production by Andy McQuade, cashes in on the myth of the tortured genius and makes cheap comic capital out of the notion that men’s sexual thrall to women both nurtures and destroys their creativity… Unless the idea of being showered in toxic verbal diarrhoea appeals, avoid. Full review here.

Wolfboy

Theatre: Trafalgar Studios
Reviewer: Sam Marlowe
Organ: The Times
Date: 12 July 2010

Archive assistant: HH

What a nasty little mess this witless new musical is. Written by Russell Labey and Leon Parris and loosely based on Brad Fraser’s 1989 play, it’s a stomach-turning stew of horror-shlock and po-faced sentimentality, made more revolting by its ill-judged treatment of paedophilia. There’s sadomasochism, sex and a liberal helping of gore, but it’s the sheer cynicism of an undertaking that tries to titillate by exploiting a serious issue that really sickens.

The draw is the presence in the cast of a couple of Hollyoaks hotties. Paul Holowaty, better known onscreen as Macki, plays David, a rent boy who suffers from lycanthropy and has ended up gagged and strapped to a bed in a psychiatric hospital. He lowers, sniffs and growls, while being tended to by his fellow soap star Emma Rigby as the blonde bombshell nurse Cherry.

In the next room Bernie (Gregg Lowe), a failed suicide, bemoans his blighted young life. His beefcake brother Christian (Daniel Boys, seen on the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do) pops in occasionally looking anxious, gets distracted by Cherry’s charms and is soon shagging her against the sedated David’s bedhead. Meanwhile, David and Bernie share the secrets of their unhappy pasts; they call each other by the Wizard of Oz nicknames Toto and Dorothy, just in case the homoerotic undercurrent had gone unnoticed, and exchange several varieties of bodily fluid.

Lowe has a golden voice; Holowaty is a terrible singer. It doesn’t matter much either way, since Parris’s electropop score is forgettable, and they’ve both been hired for their pecs and pert nipples. If this were just a B-movie romp, it would be simply silly and disposable. But the straining efforts of Labey’s hamfisted production to get serious, with lip-trembling accounts of abuse colliding with sweaty simulated couplings, are excruciating and offensive. Rarely has a show better deserved a silver bullet. Full review here.

The Fantasticks

Theatre: Duchess
Reviewer: Quentin Letts
Organ: Daily Mail
Date: 10 June 2010

Archive assistants: J.A. / Thom

Next time you find yourself somewhere less than ideal – in a stifling nightmare, a traffic jam on the way to the airport, a trainee gynaecologist’s stirrups – count your blessings. It could be worse. You could be stuck in the surreal musical ‘comedy’ The Fantasticks, directed by a Japanese. With the entire second half still to come. Full review here. [N.B. We assume this got 0 stars; it actually got a turkey symbol instead of the customary star rating that QL uses]

Paradise Found Book by Richard Nelson based on a novel by Joseph Roth. Music by Johann Strauss II, Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh

Theatre: Menier Chocolate Factory
Reviewer: Georgina Brown
Organ: Mail On Sunday
Date: 6 June 2010

Archive assistant: Tim Haigh

 

Is the theatre being taken over by dirty old men? In Chichester, the new Yes, Prime Minister has a senior foreign politician requestion the services of an under-age prostitute.  Now, the Menier Chocolate Factory, famous for it’s mouthwatering musical confections is serving up Paradise Found (no stars), a crude, coarse little piece that is both unpleasant and purgatorial… Theatrical Viagra, this show most certainly isn’t… It is quite impossible to imagine what detail in this witless, pointless show might have struck anyone as even the germ of a good idea.

My Zinc Bed by David Hare

Theatre: Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Reviewer: Charles Spencer
Organ: Daily Telegraph
Date: 2 March 2010

Archive assistant: @scbedford

“Short of putting the boot into guide dogs for the blind, or condemning the folly of children collecting milk bottle tops for the Blue Peter appeal, it is hard to imagine how David Hare could have written a more misguided and malign play than My Zinc Bed… It’s not just a bad play. It is a wicked one, too.” Full review here.

Medea

Theatre: Oxford Playhouse & touring
Reviewer: Quentin Letts
Organ: Daily Mail
Date: 5 February 2010

“From its opening scene[...] the thing is almost a pastiche of bad. ‘Sex leads to death!’ cries the chorus. This set off the Oxford audience something rotten. A woman not far behind me parped through her halfheld nostrils. My neighbour gave an ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake’ grunt. Just when it seemed things could descend no lower, one of the actors strapped on an electric guitar while two other characters made noises on an under-powered keyboard. ‘You’ve every right to poonish yer ‘usbands,’ the chorus drones. Could there be any punishment greater than making Him Indoors attend this bizarre production?” Full review here.

Flamen’ka

Theatre: Lyric
Reviewer: Sarah Frater
Organ: London Evening Standard
Date: 23 September 2008

“The acting was universally woeful, and the two brothers looked more like EastEnders’ Grant and Phil Mitchell than the erotic heroes they wanted to be. Worse still was Karen Ruimy, who devised the show. She mooches around narrating the action and wishing she looked like Penelope Cruz (she doesn’t). What she does do is sing very, very badly.” Full review here.

Badac Theatre’s The Factory

Theatre: Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Reviewer: Ian Shuttleworth (NB This is Ian’s first ever 0-star rating,  awarded for reasons that are quite apparent from the article and comments here)
Organ: Financial Times
Date:13 Aug 2008

Archive assistant: Ian Shuttleworth

“This intended indictment of a complacently abusive system which took no account of others as autonomous beings was in fact exhibiting the same thoughtlessness and contempt. Never in my theatre- going life have I seen such a complete misunderstanding of the status of the audience, or theatrical values so utterly and perniciously inverted.” Full review here.

Peter Pan – El Musical

Theatre: Garrick
Reviewer: Lyn Gardner
Organ: The Guardian
Date: 2 April 2008

Archive assistant: Arthur

“An awfully big misadventure, this Spanish mauling of JM Barrie’s masterpiece flies into the Garrick and crash-lands belly up. There are no survivors. Such is the mind-boggling awfulness of this family show, performed in Spanish with inept English surtitles, that you wish the Lost Boys had not shot at Wendy but taken aim at this great white elephant and finished it off instead. My youngest daughter – a stoic survivor of such theatrical catastrophes as Fireman Sam Live on Stage and The Man in the Iron Mask – refused point blank to return with me after the interval.” Full review here.

An Audience with the Mafia

Theatre: Apollo
Reviewer: Lyn Gardner
Organ: The Guardian
Date: 28 January 2008

Archive assistant: Natasha Tripney

“He shows absolutely no mercy for the English language. His stresses and pronunciation are so murderous, it’s as if he is conducting a personal vendetta against the spoken word. If the script, a stupendously dull mismatch of gore, conspiracy and high romanticism, is delivered with all the animation of the speaking clock, the Mercy Man’s arms make up for it. They are like demented windmills. When he says “me” or “I”, he points at himself; when he says the word “think”, he points at his head. Presumably to check that it’s still there.” Full review here

The Dorchester

Theatre: Jermyn Street Theatre
Reviewer: Sam Marlowe
Organ: The Times
Date: 20 November 2007
Archive assistant: Ian Shuttleworth

“Lynda Baron’s production is cack-handed and badly acted, but it scarcely matters. Dire.” Full review here

The Bicycle Men

Theatre: King’s Head
Reviewer: Lyn Gardner
Organ: The Guardian
Date: 12 November 2007
Archive assistant: Ian Shuttleworth

“I was saddle sore after the first 10 minutes and desperately in need of banned substances to endure the relentless toilet humour.” Full review here

Menopause The Musical

Theatre: The Shaw Theatre
Reviewer: Lyn Gardner
Organ: The Guardian
Date: 20 April 2007

“Offering less of a rosy glow and more of a long cold douche of the soul, Menopause the Musical is the least competent and most cynical piece of theatre to hit London since the Blue Man Group. It makes me think quite fondly of The Vagina Monologues, a show so ghastly that it made my vagina try and leave the theatre entirely unaided by my legs in protest at the drivel inflicted on women in the name of empowerment.” Full review here

Songs My Mother Taught Me (Lorna Luft)

Theatre: Savoy Theatre
Reviewer: Alastair Macaulay
Organ: FT.com
Date: 7 July 2004
Archive assistant: Ian Shuttleworth

“Though she tells us, in her loud way, that an inner voice has told her to keep the flame of her mother’s legend alive, she knows perfectly well that Garland’s furnace-like flame scarcely needs any fanning. Obviously, Luft is trying to cash in on Mommie Dearest’s lustre – which would be fine if she herself were remotely interesting as either a singer or a narrator.” Full review here


13 Responses to “Zero Stars Hall of Fame”

  1. Nathan Silver Says:

    What’s so fascinating about Paradise Found (and we only managed the first half) is the array of fabulousness onstage. Memorably brilliant performers all– elsewhere– but in this, just up there on stage to die. Fleetingly, in their eyes, they showed that they knew it. The brilliiantly charismatic Mandy Patinkin! The slyly hilarious John McMartin! The ultimate gorgeous showgirl Kate Baldwin! (OK, her gorgeousness was impossible to louse up. Thanks for that.)

    A muslim in love in Vienna set to Johann Strauss is a musical that could work– think Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, or Rossini’s A Turk in Italy– but for the theatre today, only with a cracklingly mad, explosively funny book by someone who knows first of all that an Ottoman ruler is a sultan, not a pointless shah, and perhaps also how to write a book for a musical (using as few spoken words as possible), having lyrics with some style and wit. I blame Hal Prince for not firing the book writer and lyricist on day three.

    In fact, maybe that has happened already and the present writer and lyricist are the replacements! I just noticed that the names of the creators appearing on my programme are printed on a sticky label, so I’m trying to soak it off to see what’s beneath.

    Ah, memories! I’m lucky enough to have the memory of having seen the disastrous Alec Guinness-Simone Signoret Macbeth in 1966, and 14 or so years later, the calamitous Peter O’Toole Macbeth. (The luck is the cherished memory, certainly not the experience.) So you could say I have form as a witness to theatrical shite with great people in it.

    Wait– the label’s soaked off!

    And there’s nothing that was pasted over below it!!!

  2. Thom Says:

    I’m pretty sure the Fantasticks got a big zero in the Daily Mail which was pretty generous.

  3. Ian Shuttleworth Says:

    Gosh, I’d forgotten that I was in there.

  4. AC Says:

    Another one for you here if you haven’t already spotted it… http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/nov/26/it-had-to-be-you-review

  5. Martin Baker Says:

    Even 0 stars for the painful Wolfboy experience seems a little generous!


  6. [...] also produce some interesting side effects. Not least is the dominant category of “zero stars.” West End Whingers have a website dedicated to the lowest rated London theatre productions. But there are also those [...]

  7. Ian Shuttleworth Says:

    Oh, thank God, I’d been worrying that I might have been too crazy in giving My City four stars, but the zero from Tim Walker has reassured me.

  8. theycallmechristophe Says:

    Cool Hand Luke. I’m considering invoicing the Aldwych for my tube fare.


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