Oliver’s duff media diary in today’s Independent viewspaper “exposes” the propensity of the Evening Standard’s chief critic to nod off during plays:
Matron! The smelling salts! A concerning development at the Almeida Theatre, where the London Evening Standard’s critic, Nicholas “Ding Dong” de Jongh, was seen “resting his eyes” during Pinter’s The Homecoming. “He was slumped with them closed for a long time. Deeply relaxed,” explains a fellow scribe. “He does it quite often, it is extraordinary. Then he will suddenly sit bolt-upright and start scribbling notes.”
Pleasing though it is to hear of such absence of deference towards hallowed Harold, de Jongh is fingered as a repeat shut-eye offender and a pretender to Sheridan Morley’s crumpled paper crown. De Jongh was again found meditating during last week’s Scarborough at the Royal Court – to the delight of other audience members sitting “in the round”, but not the Court’s artistic director, Dominic Cooke, who was unimpressed with the Standard’s subsequent putrid review.
That write-up must be the more galling given how Cooke helped De Jongh prepare for his own new play, Plague Over England, about John Gielgud’s arrest in a public loo and persecution. Ingratitude? Nay, independence, truly. Yet the sound of a bottom bugle trumpets across the West End as De Jongh waits 10 days for scribe colleagues to judge his drama. It must be hoped reviewers prepare with an early night. When I speak to De Jongh, he denies narcolepsy and accuses several rivals of taking their eyes off the stage action and orchestrating a witch hunt. Pray no!
Now as regular readers will know, Andrew is quite prone to nodding off mid-performance. This is because either he is tired or the theatre is too hot or the play is boring or Phil has slipped a Rohypnol into his wine (this isn’t a date rape thing; it just enables Phil to finish the bottle without the bother of having to ask).
So Andrew is completely with de Jongh on this one. If the play bores you, catch up on some sleep. Cut the man some slack: don’t foget that every week he has to sit through upwards of three plays – that’s every week!
So Andrew is sure that Mr de Jongh will quite understand when Andrew nods off during Plague Over England. In fact, he is so confident of a sympathetic atmosphere that he has purchased a new nightgown and nightcap for the occasion and his hip-flask will for once contain nothing more than his usual pre-bedtime Horlicks and gin.
Update: here’s the review.