On Boozing It Up Before A Show
December 2, 2009
An amusing article by Mark Brown in the UK Guardian got me thinking about the rules of engagement when it comes to arts critics drinking before they turn up to review shows. According to the story, the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker accused critics, who gave her new play The Line mixed reviews, of being "in no fit condition to review a play after a boozy theatre awards lunch." The article continues:
"Wertenbaker believes that the actors were not given a fair crack of the whip because many of the critics had spent the day being liberally wined and dined at the Evening Standard theatre awards - a four-hour affair at the Royal Opera House that involved a champagne reception followed by lunch and as much wine as they wanted to drink. She said some critics had had the grace to say they would come on a different night, but most came after the lunch."
Following in the noble footsteps of such famous theatre-reviewing lushes as Kenneth Tynan, I suspect that the London theatre critics are better able to hold their drink than many other breeds of journalist. It's also worth mentioning that a few of the critics who reacted negatively to The Line, like The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer, are devoted teetotalers. If Wertenbaker's play didn't win raves, it's probably largely the fault of the play, not the booze.
Turning up drunk to review a show is of course a major professional no-no, alongside leaving a theatre at intermission and sleeping with the leading gent or lady. But it's my personal opinion that unless you're the greatest lightweight in the world, imbibing one glass of wine or pint of beer prior to going to review a show isn't off-limilts. It certainly shouldn't impact one's reception of a performance.