In which de Jongh receives support from an unlikely quarter

Monday 18 February 2008

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.

6 Responses to “In which de Jongh receives support from an unlikely quarter”


  1. I agree with Andrew! I have nodded off in the first act of many a play and it has not harmed my enjoyment of it… Unless of course there was no interval… Hmmm

  2. Jmc Says:

    Perhaps the theatres should begin serving critics a complimentary glass of red bull instead of red wine on press nights.


  3. In Master De Jongh’s case I’m sure many people I know would recommend hemlock not red bull…

    By the by if you saw it in the article Master De Jongh wrote in his own paper about the forthcoming production of his play the level of self-delusion is incredible. He believes he has been hard done by, by various subsidized theatres.

    But he has had preferential treatment all along the line (including the Rolls Royce treatment from the Royal Court) that no other first time playwright would have received simply because of his place as the Standard’s critic.

    That’s quite enough earnestness in the Whingers place. I won’t be trekking down to the Finborough but I look forward to the Whingers view if you brave Earls Court…


  4. Don’t worry, Dr E, that’s not earnestness, that’s whinging. Welcome to our world. What with that and your recent semi-hungover experience, you’re practically in the club.

    On second thoughts maybe you should worry…

  5. Simone Says:

    I was just going to say I can’t wait for what you guys have to say about his upcoming play, have you booked your tickets yet?

  6. stephen Says:

    Susceptible myself to the old “mid-afternoon trough”, not proud to say I glazed over during a (mid-pm) dress rehearsal of Speed The Plow – mea culpa, and my loss, great show. Only last week at my Cloudcuckooland, after a particularly winning bit I looked over at a colleague to share the joke only to see her drinking deep of the waters of Lethe.


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