Posts tagged ‘ian shuttleworth’

27 September, 2010

Bloggers deserve comp tickets too, at least at the Lyric

The Lyric Hammersmith is trying out a new policy of comping in “regular theatre bloggers” to all its main house shows, which is a smart PR move and might also be another baby step towards a new post-print journalism.

I know Andrew Eglinton, founder and editor of the London Theatre Blog (right now, sadly on another of its extended hiatus periods – keep it bookmarked, it’ll be back) has gently pestered Ian Shuttleworth on a couple of occasions about including blogs in the Theatre Record. Mr Shuttleworth was justifiably loathe to open those floodgates, because Theatre Record is still near enough a one-man operation, and:

  1. keeping tabs on all the critical outlets currently operative in the blogosphere is a much, much bigger task than the already never-ending task of keeping tabs on every newspaper theatre section;
  2. deciding which blogs are and aren’t worthy of inclusion in a permanent record of critical discourse is too much power for one man to wield.

In the absence of such a unilateral journalistic edict, the Lyric has (presumably) hand-picked a selection of bloggers whose opinions it (presumably) considers to carry some weight – and (presumably) who have reacted favourably to its programming in the past. Perhaps if other theatre industry players – other venues, artists, producers, PR firms, journalists, academics – started weighing in with their own top tens, we’d start to see some overlap and the beginnings of consensus.

I’m very interested to know which other bloggers the Lyric is courting. If you’re one of them, I’d love to hear from you either directly via any of the options on the contact page, or in the comments on this post. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest we form a support group. I’m just interested to see what it is we have in common.

This was supposed to be the introduction to a blog on the Lyric’s latest main house production, The Big Fellah, which I saw earlier this evening, but I think that can wait until tomorrow night. All the reviews are out already – you’ve plenty to read while you wait for my two cents (I’ve even bookmarked them all for you – click here for the list).

In the meantime, let’s start the quest for consensus right here: which “regular theatre bloggers” would you invite to a production you were involved in?

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1 March, 2010

Lyn Gardner fully expects to be replaced by Katie Price

Written for The Collective Review, 1 March 2010

The national newspapers’ habit of replacing their retired head theatre critics with columnists and political sketchwriters is pretty worrying for those of us on the bottom rungs of the theatre criticism career ladder, as I pointed out in January, when The Times announced Libby Purves would be replacing Benedict Nightingale in their top spot.

Well, it turns out up-and-comers like me aren’t the only ones concerned by the trend:  some of the country’s most influential theatre critics also expressed reservations about the appointments last Friday, at Theatre Critics In The Spotlight, a panel discussion hosted by The Student Workshop of Royal Holloway, University of London (pictured).

Even before the panel hosts – Royal Holloway lecturer and Variety theatre critic Karen Fricker, and Student Workshop Creative Learning Officer Sheryl Hill – formally posed the question, panellist Mark Shenton – critic for the Sunday Express and daily blogger for The Stage – repeatedly brought up the topic.

In Shenton’s view, the trend is a cost-saving measure, symptomatic of the problems facing the newspaper and media industry as a whole.  His fellow panellist Kate Bassett, lead critic for the Independent on Sunday, pithily summarised those problems, saying, “Newspapers don’t know how to make money any more”.

Shenton explained that papers could avoid paying an extra salary by simply adding theatre criticism to the duties of an existing member of staff, adding that editors no longer consider theatre criticism to be a full-time occupation.

Ian Shuttleworth of the Financial Times recalled – enlighteningly, for those of us relatively new to the business – the appointment of former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Michael Portillo as theatre critic for the New Statesman, which he considers to be the beginning of the trend.  Worryingly, he also pointed out that his own promotion to lead critic at the FT is the only instance in living memory of a retiring lead critic being replaced by their number two at the same paper – most second-stringers have to defect to a different publication in order to secure a top slot.

Lyn Gardner, critic and blogger for The Guardian, concluded the discussion with this bleak yet matter-of-fact premonition of the industry’s future:  “I fully expect my job will one day be done by Katie Price”.

3 February, 2010

My Stories, Your Emails

Barbican, 2 – 13 February 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Ursula Martinez is an enigma and so is her new solo show, My Stories, Your Emails. An original member of La Clique, Martinez exists in the borderlands between stand-up comedy, burlesque dance, stage magic and performance art. Similarly, My Stories, Your Emails is a lecture, a stand-up act, a play, a confession and an autobiography while simultaneously being none of these things.

It also appears simultaneously to be a constructive, creative response to a potentially upsetting situation and a petty, misdirected act of vengeance.

As the title suggests, it’s a show of two halves. The first involves Martinez reading (mostly) humorous autobiographical anecdotes from a lectern. Her deadpan delivery is disconcertingly reminiscent of Jimmy Carr, though Martinez excels at getting laughs by leaving stories hanging, instead of by comic over-explanation.

The stories serve as a brief introduction to Martinez’s life, revealing aspects of her upbringing and career, details about her family and so on, without sketching anything like a complete picture of her as a person.

The second half concerns a similarly incomplete picture – a video of her magic/striptease act Hanky Panky, which was released onto the internet without her permission – and some of the astonishing conclusions people the world over drew about her as a result. It’s a pageant showcasing some prime examples of that uniquely 21st century prose genre, the speculative online solicitation, in which the objective is to coat every syllable in steaming sexual subtext, but convince the receiving party that you are not just another hopeless case begging for sex.

There’s a surprising variety of pretexts, from those who idolise Martinez as a campaigner for Nudism, to those who want to book her act, through those seeking friendship to those barefacedly requesting sex. What they have in common is that they all think they know, understand or have some kind of claim over Martinez just because they’ve watched a video of her stripping and making a silk handkerchief disappear.

The concept of this segment is a problematic one. A piece of Martinez’s work not intended for mass online consumption ended up online; she responds to this by taking fanmail (complete with full names, photos and even some telephone numbers) presumably meant for her eyes only and performing it publicly. The majority of the men (and they are all men) don’t come out of it especially well. On paper it feels like an eye for an eye.

But she performs the emails without commentary: the men are allowed to present themselves in their own words (though she provides each with an appropriate accent). It also becomes clear from occasional instances of two-way correspondence that their permission has been sought and granted to incorporate their words and pictures into the show.

To presume to draw a definitive conclusion regarding the motivation and ethics behind My Stories, Your Emails would be to make the same mistake as the men. Best just to present the facts and let Ursula Martinez remain an enigma.

Written by Ursula Martinez

Crew includes Mark Whitelaw (director)

Cast includes Ursula Martinez

Need a second opinion?