So, in case you missed it, Nicholas Hytner got a bit snippy about the middling reviews for A Matter Of Life And Death and laid into the critics for, not only being past it, but for also being a little bit sexist, referring to them as "dead white men."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, messers Billington, De Jongh et al took against this, while the Guardian's Lyn Gardner agreed with Hytner that theatre criticism is indeed too male-dominated.
David Eldridge, who of course has had work staged at the National under Hytner, says his bit over here and the guys at Theatre Encore Magazine wade into the debate here.
Me? I think Hytner has a valid point that he rapidly undermines by flinging accusations of misogyny around. The world of theatre criticism is currently far too insular - I remember Mark Shenton blogging some time ago about how a large number of the top critics went, not just to Cambridge, but to the very same college at Cambridge. Which inevitably makes for a rather narrow critical spectrum.
It's just a shame this discussion was sparked by the reviews for A Matter Of Life And Death, a bloated, unnecessary production, where I found myself heartily agreeing with a number of the dead white men in question!
Hytner does indeed have a valid point, but he comes out of this appearing stroppy simply because he got a few bad reviews. Anyway, though not exactly glowing, Billington gave the play a quite good write up if I remember correctly.
There are a number of prominent female theatre critics around but no major black or Asian critics that I can think of; Hytner should have talked about that.
Good point. Very good point.
This whole debate is pretty silly. Hytner came off like a stroppy child, especially when so many recent NT productions have been so mediocre.
Michael Billington might not be one for physical theatre, but Lyn Gardner regularly champions more experimental work, so there's a decent balance of views around. Same goes for most other papers. Typical media over-reaction to a non-story.
The last couple of things I've seen at the national have been pretty dodgy - The Rose Tattoo, the Royal Hunt For The Sun, Market Boy. Maybe Hytner needs to sort his own house out before he starts having a go at the critics. They're only sharing their opinions after all, it's the shows that count.
The clue is in the name guys... Critic(al).. We can take or leave what they say, and I for one would not go or not go to see a play on the strength of one persons opinion... whether he or she went to Cambridge or not!
I completely agree. I certainly don't decide what to go and see based on critical opinion. Indeed I think I would have gone to make up my own mind on A Matter Of Life And Death regardless of the critucal response - but surely a greater range of view points is a desirable thing.
I think there was a nugget of truth in what Hytner said but it was buried in the middle of a very muddled rant.
And while one person's opinion is just one person's opinion, if there's an overwhelmingly negative critical response to something then, yes, it would probably influence me to stay away from that particular production.
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