Quite what Mr Hytner (who didn’t come to our party) expected to achieve with his night of the long butterknives, we don’t know. But if he was expecting the dailies to summarily dump their dead white male reviewers and replace them with one-legged, black, working class lesbians from the north of England he is presumably somewhat disappointed.
Much has been said on the matter but the status quo has been maintained and life goes on in theatreland.
However, it would be marvellous to be a fly on the sandwich at next month’s Critics Circle meeting where – according to Mark Shenton (who didn’t come to our party either) – Mr Hytner is due to to speak.
Incidentally, we do wonder what happens at these meetings. What on earth do they talk about? Does anyone talk to Nicholas de Jongh (who didn’t come to our party, but to be fair had not been invited)?
According to the CC website, its aims are:
to promote the art of criticism, to uphold its integrity in practice, to foster and safeguard members’ professional interests, to provide opportunities to meet, and to support the advancement of the arts.
Probably they spend much of their time concerened that the West End Whingers are busily and successfully demoting the art of criticism, denuding it of all integrity, looking out only for themselves and undermining artistic endeavour wherever they find it.
It’s lucky that our aims are so diametrically opposed as, to be frank, we just wouldn’t have the time to commit to the Critics Circle. Andrew drones on about his job being high-powered, busy and important and Phil’s knitting circle keeps him out of circulation three evenings a week so it’s difficult to see how we would squeeze it in.
Anyway, back to the night of the long butterknives. As we promised we would, we DID think about it all and this is what we came up with:
1. It does expose the ridiculous idea of having critics (one critic per paper, yet!) whose job it is to judge whether something is good or bad when there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. (Ooh, that’s good. Write that down!)
2. To be fair to Mr Hytner, it does underline the appalling lack of diversity among the major critics in the dailies. We laughed out loud when De Jongh played the “gay card” but in the world of the theatre, that could hardly be said to constitute diversity. Where are the black and Asian critics?
3. But then again, where are the black and Asian theatre bloggers? In these modern days where there are no barriers to having a voice if you want one, the blogosphere is presumably reasonably self-selecting. The girls are up for it – City Slicker (who didn’t come to our party but did apologise) and Interval Drinks (who did come to our party; we like her) have made their mark and so have the gays – Paul in London (who did come to our party; we like him) for instance. But while we are reluctant to make assumptions about those we don’t know, it does look as though interest in West End theatre is pretty much “a white thing”.
4. There are interesting ideas raised about the possibly different sensibilities of male and female critics. We could not possibly comment.
5. Otherwise, makes Mr Hytner makes a bit of an ass of himself (as, indeed, he did by not coming to our party). As many have pointed out, he was happy enough with dead white men when they gave him good reviews.
The most interesting thing, though, is “the mystery of the missing article”.
The Evening Standard tends to shovel pretty much all of its material onto its This Is London website. But whatever happened to Louise Jury’s article:”Hytner & Co blast ‘dead white men’ biased against female directors?”
The Whingers had been rather mystified by David Eldridge’s (who didn’t come to our party but did apologise) reference to a threat by de Jongh. Several Internet searches revealed no such thing.
But happily Phil’s habit of raking through his neighbours’ litter bins for juicy tidbits came up trumps and a copy of the offending edition of the ES was recovered. And there it is. In black and white. Nicholas de Jongh saying:
“The idea that age and gender precludes on from judging a play strikes me as hysterical, bigoted, silly and beneath him. He will come to regret it. Greatly.”
Now why didn’t that make it onto the website?
Phil is certain the Pulitzer is his for the taking next year.
Footnote: interesting analysis of the night of the long butterknives on the notional theatre blog.