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May 15, 2007


Ian Shuttleworth

One of the differences, though, is that a writer or director who stays in their (his or her!) job for ages isn't blocking others from coming up. There aren't enough sizeable openings for new work in theatre, granted, but there are far more than in the area of criticism at comparable levels.

Mind you, when I said that in a Theatre Record editorial a couple of years ago, there was a sudden news kerfuffle almost of the size that's greeted Hytner's remarks, alleging that I was calling for compulsory retirement and moreover doing so because I wanted one of their jobs. (Feel free to interpret my perspective on this matter in the light of the fact that I've now got one!)

Other than that, though, I can't think of a single damned thing to say in mitigation of Hytner's remarks. They seem to me to be utter tosh, and surely deliberately provocative tosh, because I refuse to consider the possibility that he actually believes them.

Another thing that Lyn Gardner seems not to take into account - surprising, really, in the light of how long she's been the Guardian's number two - is that the main reason senior critics don't get out around the fringe is that they're EXPECTED rather to cover the main events. It's part of the job; it's what, as far as the editors are concerned, they pay them for. As I've gradually ascended over the years from a protege of Lyn's at City Limits magazine to the Standard's number three, to the FT's junior and now senior critic, I've often felt that I've been neglecting the fringe. (For three and half years now as editor of Theatre Record I've been running comprehensive listings, and not once in that time have I been to, say, the Union, the New End or the White Bear.) But there are shows that demand to be covered and editors who demand that they be covered, and I may not have much of a life but even I need one or two evenings off a week for things like laundry. I try to make up to some extent by blitzing the Edinburgh Fringe each year, though still not to the degree that Lyn does.

I incline to the view that Lyn's rationalisation of the seniors' perspective (ALLEGED perspective) is as confected as Hytner's outrage.

Of course, it may not just be her and Michael Billington tussling with each other. Thea Sharrock's contribution notes as a parting shot "There is one critic in particular, for example, who has never once resisted the chance to give my work a terrible review, but funnily enough she's not a 'dead white male'." I don't know who she's talking about, but it does seem oddly pointed in a piece immediately following Lyn Gardner's.

But, as your header suggests, we do love a spat among the luvvies...

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