Tuesday 2 December 2014

Goodbye, Mr Walker

[such fish, so barrel, very shooting]

The erstwhile Sunday Telegraph “theatre critic” Tim Walker has written a piece for the Guardian about his recent sacking from the post. In it he mourns the passing of an “enriching and time-honoured conversation” conducted with “insight and style”.

In fact (as I have noted before), the decline of this “conversation”, if indeed it has declined, dates from around the point where newspaper editors started appointing gossip columnists and celebrities as theatre critics. (While “theatre critic”, Walker also continued in his role as writer/editor of the S.Tel’s “Mandrake” “diary” column. Quentin Letts performed a similar role at the Daily Mail alongside his parliamentary sketches.) Indeed, of the “biggest names” that Walker saw “bumped off were Michael Portillo (the New Statesman), Libby Purves (the Times) and Nicholas de Jongh (the London Evening Standard)”, only de Jongh had any background as a critic (and was pretty near universally disliked), and all three were immediately replaced by an at least slightly more suitable candidate. And, as I’ve also previously noted, everyone has to start somewhere, and aside from the Pollyanna star-ratings, Purves was no worse than many writers starting on AYT.

So, on one hand, Walker is merely reheating the online vs in-print battle, albeit with his customary lack of any insight into the field whatsoever, familiar to us all from his terrible, terrible theatre reviews. For a start, it is simply untrue to claim that (even West End) theatres don’t publish notices from online publications. Michael Coveney at WhatsOnStage.com is as respected now as he was when he was at the Mail or the Guardian. Similarly, I’ve seen Exeunt reviews quoted on posters outside the Royal Exchange every time I’ve been there. And Edinburgh is a veritable explosion of the sodding things.

But, as I’ve said many times before, to hold up newspaper reviews as a gold standard of excellence requires those newspaper reviews to be the best reviews being written in the country. And they aren’t always.

Even decent, committed newspaper critics will agree that they feel compromised by having to give star ratings, that their wordcounts are constantly being squeezed (or paragraphs are disappeared by careless subs suddenly needing room to squeeze in another advert), and they often feel marginalised even within their own newspapers by their culture section editors who privilege more universally available artforms like films, books and television.

There are also a few “professional” newspaper critics who appear to actively dislike most theatre being made in Britain, and whose chief function is apparently to criticise the very concept of public subsidy; in publications privately owned by free market fundamentalists. Indeed, note Walker’s use of examples drawn largely from the profit-driven West End, rather than any discernible fondness for the subsidised sector, which he doubtless views as a racket that's in cahoots with the new-fangled “blogosphere” as part of a Bolshevik plot to bring Britain back under public ownership. (If only.)

[Elephant in the room time: I’m exactly the same, albeit from the left. Both my glee and my vitriol comes purely from my belief that Walker is just plain wrong about a lot of things. For the record, my dislike of his ideology is precisely that: dislike of his ideology. It doesn’t come from any kind of personal animus whatsoever, even though he has written some pretty nasty, personal things; not least about Ian Shuttleworth.]

The problem for Tim Walker, however, is that his own system has just proved that it doesn’t give a fuck about Tim Walker. Or theatre. It’s tempting to gloat that he who lives by profit-driven analysis also loses their job because of it; or that Walker’s appeals to the values of “enrichment” “time-honoured-ness”, “insight” and “style” come a little late in the day, after a decade of particularly trite and spiteful typing. He’s absolutely right, of course. Those things are good. But he’s absolutely not the man to make the argument.

And, lest we forget, Walker refused to join the Critics Circle, labelling it “a ghastly chorus”, preposterously comparing his brave decision to that of protesting the Holocaust in Nazi Germany in his review of Berlin Hannover Express. Indeed, Googling for that linked article throws up a whole raft of sniggering articles from 2009 that do little to ground Walker’s new found love for the traditions of criticism in any kind of reality beyond opportunism.

No, of course you don’t have to join Critics’ Circle or like any other critics to be good at the job. But taking a third of your wordcount in a review of Katie Mitchell’s Pains of Youth to write about another critic’s physical appearance is not the job. And let’s not forget Walker’s recent (entirely inaccurate) review of the temperature of the Almeida theatre.  Hell, just for a laugh, let's also remember that time he fearlessly asked the question on no one's lips: "Would even Larry [Olivier] have been allowed to black up as Iago today?"

Annoyingly, however, Walker wasn’t fired because he was an atrocious theatre critic. He was made redundant at the same time as his job ceased to exist. So, like only Kate Bassett before him, he left a position that was being folded up at the same time. To reiterate, there’s no comparison here between Libby Purves being replaced by Dominic Maxwell, or Nick de Jongh being replaced by Henry Hitchings. In theory, there’s also no comparison between Charles Spencer retiring and being succeeding by his deputy, except that the Daily Telegraph seems to be running notably fewer reviews now that Spencer has left, and no clear deputy has been assigned to fill Cavendish’s shoes.

As such, it does seem like there is an emerging trajectory for the British Newspaper Theatre Review, and it is: into crapness, and then unto extinction. Of course, the apparent commitment on display at The Guardian, the Financial Times, probably at the Times (I don’t have paywall access), the Evening Standard and even the attempt to keep things going as best they can at the Independent, all suggests that such panic is misplaced, but it’s true that there are two or three fewer jobs writing theatre criticism for money than there were 13 months ago. And after two, you can’t help but wonder where it’ll happen next.


Where this discussion goes from here is asking: what can best be done about this? Having just taken two months off, I can say with some authority that if you don’t look for theatre criticism, it definitely doesn’t come and find you. While pop music, news stories, and most of all that sodding John Lewis penguin advert seem unavoidable, theatre criticism is not. And that’s *mainstream* criticism. The most powerful argument in favour of newspaper criticism was that it was part of a wider whole, and as such, was put in front of the reader along with a whole load of other stuff as part of a curated vision of what our culture comprises; of what we should be concerned with.

Now, thanks to Google, algorithms, and ever-expanding choices, even that level of directed-ness sounds weirdly old-fashioned, patrician, almost intrusive. Sure, done well it sounds like a lovely idea, but if, like me, you were always throwing the sports section of the Guardian in the recycling without reading a word fifteen years ago, back when newspapers were printed on paper, criticism similarly depended on people actually bothering to read it. Even when the Guardian sold over 500,000 paper copies, there was no way that Michael Billington could confidently claim that was how many readers he had.

What has now changed – most likely because of the their websites supplying pinpoint accurate metrics – is that newspaper owners can now see which cuts *theoretically* affect fewest readers. Because, with the exception of the Guardian (and Observer), British newspapers are private businesses run by multi-billionaires, any commitment to culture is merely matter of prestige, or a polite fig leaf over the real business of maximum profit, and power. To an extent, ‘twas ever thus, but, once their profit machines start to show signs of haemorrhaging money, newspaper owners are demonstrating that they will shred almost everything to maintain continued profit and influence. Walker’s point that newspapers “are... dispensing with their critics” “as a direct consequence” of “Theatre managements cutting back on their print advertisements” is as accurate as it is cynical and chilling. Arguments about the value of culture, about how one thing influences another, about the merit of being able to be informed about what’s going on artistically around the country... Well, you might as well be asking (Telegraph owners) the Barclay Brothers to start paying tax, rather than keeping their wealth in offshore accounts on Jersey and the British Virgin Islands.

So, yes. Things look a bit gloomy for mainstream newspaper theatre criticism, but largely because things look gloomy for Britain generally. We have a largely right-wing, Europhobic, anti-intellectual press, which promotes a brand of Conservatism for which even Cameron’s coalition isn’t vicious enough, and which is increasingly promoting the unknown quantity of UKIP as a means of driving the UK further to the right. We live in a country where fundamentalist free-market capitalism is presented as the norm, rather than as a deeply flawed, weird aberration; and where dog-whistle racism is taken for granted in the press. Where only the most angry, irrational, frightened and frightening voices ever seem to be reported or heard. And where we seemed to be being deliberately panicked into borderline fascism. At which point, worrying about whether reviews of plays could be better starts to look a bit silly. Except that the condition of the press generally, *of course* informs the condition of its cultural criticism. The question is almost *why would we* expect better from a paper apparently committed to climate change denial and the demonisation of the poorest by the wealthiest?

The panic about newspaper criticism should start with the sheer horror at the people whose interests you work to further if you write it anywhere other than at the Guardian or Observer, and work backwards from there. But, of course, while the vast majority of liveable wages are (or used to be) at newspapers, the concern is underatandable.

I would argue that alternative models are beginning to emerge. Jake Orr’s genius for funding applications has made A Younger Theatre and Dialogue start to look like they might one day become viable streams of revenue, while at Exeunt, the editorial team’s newly renewed panache continues to ensure reliable, intelligent criticism continues to flourish and have a standard bearer.

In the current climate of cuts, cuts and more cuts, it seems optimistic to hope that the Arts Council will fund any criticism in the next funding round, but perhaps in time it will happen. And, in the mean time, it strikes me that for the right “producer”/publisher, there is probably an untapped wealth of potential sponsorship as arts organisations, theatres, and trusts realise that actually they actually quite like being written about intelligently.

Granted, at present, this model feels like it runs the risk of creating a somewhat specialist niche product, but then, consider this: have newpaper owners not already discovered that on their websites, even the grossest, most populist writing about theatre attracts a fraction of the number of readers as a picture of Miley Cyrus shopping? And isn’t anything thoughtful "just a bit niche" now?

Yes, *of course* it would be wonderful if incisive, stylish theatre criticism were part of everyone’s daily cultural diet, but it pretty much isn’t. So perhaps criticism needs to learn again from the best theatres, rather than the most cowardly profiteers, that by staying true to a strong, high standard, and not being afraid of difficulty, you will achieve houses sold out to an increasingly loyal and grateful audience who value your work and keep you afloat.


Blimey.  That was long.  Have an apt Siouxsie and the Banshees song as a reward for getting to the end:

“Too many critics, too few writing...”


Unsent Postcards: Romeo and Juliet – Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

[seen 9/10/14]

O, Manchester! O, HOME! How I have wronged you. When I reviewed your Romeo and Juliet, I thought it wasn’t all that good. I am so sorry. I was measuring you against some sort of Platonic ideal. I had expectations. Well, Cardiff has shown me the error of my ways. You didn’t even get close to how bad R&J can get. Sure, I took against your Romeo for seeming impulsive, vain, posh, and a bit hard to like. But, Christ! At least I listened to what he had to say. And, well, yeah, maybe I wasn't hugely enamoured of your concept, but, fuck! At least you had one.

Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre is regarded as a bit of a poisoned chalice in Welsh theatre circles. Essentially, the problem is, it had a large tranche of cash taken away in the last funding round. It has just been refurbed, with the old car park now hosting an art museum-y foyer lit like a downtown strip club, but incoming Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan can only afford two home-grown productions a year. And both have to sell. A lot. On the evidence of last night, no matter how bad this R&J is, the tyranny of the National Curriculum set-text will ensure financial stability in the short term. However, it will also poison the well of future theatre audiences as surely as anthrax in the water supply. This is precisely the sort of production that made me believe as a teenager in Birmingham that theatre was a poor substitute for simply reading the play, or better still, just reading novels. Why subject yourself to hours in a darkness you can't leave while actors more wooden than the stage on which they stand speak the words of the text less convincingly than you can imagine them?

O’Riordan’s production is terrible. Jaw-droppingly, giggle-inducingly so. It sets a new Gold Standard for train-wreck theatre (although I avoid a lot of stinkers, so this could be a slightly unfair judgement. Still, it set me a new nadir for principal theatres in capital cities).

Why so bad? Well, let's tick off the pitifully few positives first. Kenny Miller’s set is actually pretty great. A massive concrete monolith. Impressive, layered, subtle, menacing. Like something out of a post-apocalyptic Marthaler show. I could have lived without the flown-out upper wall, revealing the Capulets’ bling colonnaded home (which didn’t make a lick of sense, but then neither did any of Ostermeier’s Volksfiend), but even that *worked*. And a couple of the cast were still managing to turn in watchable performances.

So what is the problem? Well, the entire thing is so godawful it really is genuinely difficult to know where to start.

We could start with the “concept”: the production is set in a kind of impressionist sink estate where cardboard cut-outs of Britain's underclasses make gang warfare against one another. Put another way: imagine the Little Britain R&J and you're pretty much there. Juliet’s nurse is, well, a “comedy Jamaican”. The messenger is a “comedy homosexual” with a Northern Irish accent (although, Tony Flynn doubles up as The Prince, who he seems to play as the Revd Iain Paisley). Yes, The Kidz tittered at these “comedy” characters yesterday in a way that would have felt racist and homophobic, *had they been dignified portrayals of human beings*. As it was, the kids were just responding to a lowest common denominator dogwhistle. They sounded almost embarrassed of their own laughter.

Up against this minstrelsy, was basically a Topshop/Topman advert, with parents pulled in from the worst Danny Dyer films about gangsters and their molls imaginable. In the initial fight scene, more or less an entire theatreful of adolescents fell apart when Lady Capulet walked on wearing a nightie apparently designed to illustrate that “brevity is the soul of lingerie”. Christ. It was like sitting in the middle of a teenage maelstrom. The boys, devastated; the girls, unsure whether to slut-shame, cheer, or re-route their whole sexuality. It's not often you see a single (dubious) costume choice do that to an audience.

Chris Gordon’s Romeo has much the same effect when he walked on. Not a dry seat in the house. What was instructive was the way that this effect lasted for all of about two lines once he opened his mouth. Turns out good looks are still no substitute for either charisma or an actual ability to act, in theatre. Christ knows what the director was thinking.

Elsewhere, and less specifically, one repeatedly finds one wanting to scream either WAKE THE FUCK UP or WHAT ARE YOU DOING? at the stage. Which isn't super. Sean O’Callaghan plays Romeo’s father with all the Snapelike-ness appropriate to an erstwhile Wrestling School actor. However, it turns out there are reasons you'll not have seen Alan Rickman ever playing an incomprehensible drunk Irish priest... Meanwile, the entire demeanour of Paul Rattray as old Capulet at the banquet, as he looked out over his colonnaded veranda, seemed to scream “I was in Black Watch less than a decade ago. What the fuck went wrong?”

When Romeo and Juliet turn up at the cell of the incoherent friar to get married, they have both inexplicably changed into red polo shirts and black jeans. “Why are they dressed like that?” I idly wondered to myself. “They’ve just come from their Saturday jobs in McDonald’s” my friend whispered. It scarcely mattered that I spent the next five minutes trying not to laugh, since the audience around us were mostly giggling away to themselves as absurdity piled into absurdity.

I can honestly say this was one of the most risible things I’ve ever seen in a theatre. Lacklustre beyond measure, stilted, and yet still self-aware enough to project wave after wave of shame from the stage into an already restive and uncomfortable audience. I can’t even begin to imagine what the school pupils made of it. Probably, having been told that Romeo and Juliet is a great work of literature, their options were either conclude that they dislike great literature, or conclude that it was they who were somehow at fault for not liking it.

Well, young people of Cardiff, I’m here to tell you [albeit somewhat belatedly, now], it wasn’t you. And it’s not Shakespeare. Theatre is an unstable medium, and it can fuck up the best of works. And this was about as fucked up as good plays get. Please consider giving the artform another try. Cheers.

[Lyn Gardner saw it the same night as me and found it in her heart to give the wretched thing two stars...

Somehow The Stage gave it three, but most of the bits where their reviewer says something was good, it wasn’t.]

Monday 1 December 2014

театр любит капитализм

[a response almost as inevitable as the award winners]

Where to begin? Following last year’s debacle, after which three judges (notably three of the five actual critics on the panel) resigned, this year’s Evening Standard Awards – nominally for “best” things in theatre – enjoyed an entirely revised format and criteria for success.

This year was plainly a matter of simply showing the (perfectly reasonable, if largely timid and conservative) shortlists to a panel of *no critics whatsoever*, and asking them which actor, “actress”, or project was most famous. Then, having no interest in theatre at all, and every interest in famous people who would get the Evening Standard in the news, the panel easily identified the correct answers.

The winners of the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards are as follows:

Best Actor: Tom Hiddleston (Coriolanus, Donmar Warehouse)

Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress: Gillian Anderson (A Streetcar Named Desire, Young Vic)

NOOK Award for Best Play: The James Plays (Rona Munro, Edinburgh Festival Theatre & National Theatre's Olivier)

Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical: The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic & Garrick)

Milton Shulman Award for Best Director: Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies, RSC Swan & Aldwych)

Emerging Talent Award in Partnership with Burberry [WTF?]: Laura Jane Matthewson (Dogfight, Southwark Playhouse)

Best Design in Partnership with Heal's [!]: Es Devlin (American Psycho, Almeida)

Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright: Beth Steel (Wonderland, Hampstead)

Lebedev Award: Tom Stoppard (The greatest living playwright)

Editor’s Award: Kate Bush for Before the Dawn (A new high in music performance)

Beyond Theatre: Here Lies Love (For pushing the boundaries of the musical)

Revival of the Year: Skylight

Now that the awards have been given, it feels churlish to knock anyone’s success. I like Tom Hiddleston very much, both as a person and as an actor. That I wasn’t such a huge fan of that particular production of Coriolanus should be neither here nor there, and I’m happy to accept it brought a great deal of pleasure to a majority of those who saw it. But let’s be entirely honest here, it wasn’t Mark Strong in A View From the Bridge, was it? (or Tim Piggott Smith in King Charles III)  Nothing else this year was. But Hiddleston is a lot more famous. Indeed, it actually feels rather unfair that Tom’s been put in this position. Being an entirely affable and modest sort of a chap, I’d be willing to bet money that he’d have given the award to Strong.

Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson for Best “Actress” (Dear Evening Standard, no one says that word any more...) for Streetcar...? I’m happy for her and everything, but Jesus wept, she wasn’t even the best female actor in Streetcar, let alone the best out of all the female actors who performed in everything that was on in the last year.

I didn’t see the Best New Play Award-winning The James Plays or the Best Direction of Wolf/Bodies so I can’t compare them with the things on their respective shortlists that I did see (or everything else in London that might have been eligible). The James Plays I missed just because of my location, but Wolf/Bodies I didn’t see entirely because of my complete lack of interest, and word of mouth that said “this is the most normal-but-boringly-directed thing you will ever see in a theatre”. So that’s ironic.  Do I imagine Wolf/Bodies was better than A View From The Bridge?  I do not.  But Ivo van Hove is Belgian, which probably doesn't play well in these UKIP-y times.

Perhaps the oddest award given last night is the one for design. There was nothing wrong with Es Devlin’s functional, minimalist set for American Psycho, but surely a crucial point of her cunningly crafted collection of white walls was that the video design by Finn Ross would be projected onto them. Indeed, Ross’s video work was a crucial component in the overall look of American Psycho. It seems ludicrous to simply give the award to the one person named as “Designer” when the entire project was clearly a close collaboration between the two (plus lighting, plus sound, etc. etc.).

Beth Steel isn’t the most promising playwright to emerge this year any more than Tom Stoppard is the greatest living one, but whatever. That Kate Bush got a theatre award at all seems fucking strange. And especially so when the next award down is called “Beyond Theatre”, and was given to a musical at the National. And if Skylight really was the Best Revival of 2014 we might as well all kill ourselves now. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t. You don’t even have to watch it to know that.)

So yeah, there we go. Somehow a celebration of theatre manages to make it look like an artform that exists to confirm the ideological prejudices of a Russian billionaire oligarch. No, we shouldn’t be in the least bit surprised by this, and yet, as the extent to which the awards are a tawdry publicity exercise, using an artform to generate free advertising, becomes ever clearer, it becomes more and more difficult not to at least register dissent. Even while hating oneself for even giving the sodding things yet more of the publicity that they’re purpose built to generate.

Shorts: big paws

[self indulgent rambling]

Hello. Sorry. Bit more of a hiatus than I intended. Basically, my laptop was in a terrible state, so I took it to in to be mended. (Currys PC World, if you’re curious.)
“About a week” they cheerily assured me.
“Give it a few more days,” they suggested a week later, “we’ve had to send for parts.”
“They’ve sent us the wrong replacement part” they added. A week later.
After about a month they decided the laptop was unfixable.
That was about the middle of November.
So, now I’ve finally got a new laptop (and thank Christ the first one was covered by a warranty or I’d still be laptopless).

But surely I could have got hold of another laptop? Just borrowed one for the duration of my laptop’s alleged convalescence. Well, yes, I probably could. And in a couple of cases definitely *should* have done. But, at the same time as my laptop went into decline, I think I’d hit that theatre fatigue wall. I mean, whatever the Mark Shentons of this world say about theatre criticism (and he’s not wrong; as a profession, the mainstream does appear to be more unstable than it was even two years ago) it is basically the best job in the world. You just get to watch your favourite artforms non-stop. For free. And all you have to do in return is say what a thing was like. (Yes, ok, bit more complicated than that in reality, but not much more.)

But you do have to love it. And possibly one of the great unspoken problems of the profession – at least in its current configuration – is the (generally self-generated) expectation that one tries to see *as much as possible*. In real terms, that’s at least five nights a week in the theatre, more likely six, and probably chuck in the odd catch-up matinee too, if you’re feeling especially conscientious. And, days and days spent writing (especially if, like me, you’re an idiot who writes too much). Now, if you’re being paid well to do that, I daresay the cash will see you through those weeks when you’re *not really in the mood*. But I’m not even sure that’s a good thing. After all, who wants to read the grudging reports of a salaryman? But anyway, *being paid too much* isn’t really a problem for me. There’s also an awful lot in the world that *isn’t* theatre. And a real problem of the way that the work of theatre criticism is set up is that you don’t get to see so much of anything else. Let alone having much by way of time for a normal social life.

So, yes, at the same time my laptop was dying, my enthusiasm was not all it could have been. Which, when you’re frequently volunteering to be subjected to 2hr30 shows is Not A Good Thing. Yes, I realise all this whinging is #firstworldproblems of a particularly privileged sort. “That we should have such troubles!” I hear my justifiably irritated reader say. But, well, while this is ostensibly a choice for me, it seemed like a good idea to use the opportunity of the dying laptop to take a kind of (longer than intended) sabbatical. To cut right down on the amount of theatre I saw. Watch other things. Do different stuff. Read some books. To not do writing until I was figuratively chewing my hands off in frustration at not having a laptop on which to write.

I sometimes get the vague sense that some in the profession believe one of the critic’s chief tools is their jadedness. How they won’t just fall for enjoying something like a member of the public who hadn’t been the the theatre every other night that week would. A kind of snobbery, looking down upon the poor plebs who just go to the theatre because they like it.

Well, I think that’s balls. And it’s the kind of attitude which ensures that theatre criticism is increasingly viewed as a faintly unpleasant and unnecessary footnote in the history of newspaper publishing. After all, one of the best things about coming back to the internet after not having really read any theatre reviews for over a month was having a whole month’s worth of Megan Vaughan’s back catalogue to plough through. I know I’ve praised Meg to the skies already this year, but it struck me especially, looking through five or ten of her pieces in quick succession, that her model of largely only engaging with stuff that she’s really loved (or occasionally *really hated*), pays incredibly rich dividends. Not least in terms of how it leaves you feeling about the art in question. There’s a lot to be said for that level of positive energy. And, as anyone who’s ever written about theatre knows, the review that just says “Meh. It happened. It was fine” is the dullest thing to write ever.

So, on balance, I thought it would be more useful if I starved myself of theatre for a while, until I was really dying to see it again.

As it happens, I did see a bit of stuff; an early casualty of my laptop’s death were reviews of two Cardiff shows – Adventures in the Skin Trade and Romeo and Juliet – which I’ll post shortly. There was also Ostermeier’s Ein Volksfiend and Nicholas Stemann’s rehearsed reading of Elfreide Jelinek’s (somewhat underpowered) thing about the financial crisis at the Lyric, which I think between them might have served to crystallise my feeling that I needed a bit of time off (In short, “yeah, fine, whatevs” didn’t really feel like nearly enough of a response, and little else seemed possible). Later, I also caught the Almeida’s rather lovely Our Town, and the Katie Mitchell double bill: 2071 and The Cherry Orchard. (For which I paid for my own tickets, and if I’d had a laptop, would have written about straight after. Probably. Still might. That Cherry Orchard was pretty neat. Ditto Our Town (which closed on Saturday. Nothing like having one’s finger on the pulse)). Beyond that, it felt for most of the time I was off like nothing very much happened that I couldn’t live with having missed. I do wish I’d seen the Australian Wild Duck and the JMK Young Vic Far Away, and in the normal run of things it would have been good to see Longwave, Confirmation, Nothing and Spine again. John at the NT also sounds worth a look (if only because it made Quentin Letts so unhappy – the only review which made me want to see it immediately), and I was vaguely interested by Henry IV at the Donmar. But, by and large, the misses seemed manageable. Which, let’s face it, is either a bit of a worry, or indicative of how jaded I’d got (Since I’m now officially un-jaded, and still think that, we might conclude Autumn doesn’t seems to have been exactly a bumper season (especially if you saw nearly all the good bits in Edinburgh).)

Elsewhere, coming back to social media (and the news) after largely ignoring it except to occasionally reassure people I wasn’t dead, it seems Britain has now pretty much finished going to Hell; in the sense of “has arrived at its destination”. Anyway, enough of this for now. Here’s a cheery song to start your day...