Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
Hey hey, it's your press tickets! Or not. Just in case you're wondering why my esteemed colleague Nicholas Barber has not seen fit to review the Monkees, it's because the organisers are suddenly unable to provide any tickets. Could this be due to the hostile initial notices from critics who, let's face it, are never too busy singing to put anybody down? David Cheal, writing in the Telegraph, called the Monkees gig "ramshackle, disjointed ... strange and distressing". Max Bell in the London Evening Standard concurred: "awful spectacle ... lumbered from one disastrous song to another ... a truly tawdry and depressing evening." It's enough the make the most robust impresario think twice. But the sudden withdrawal of press tickets has nothing to do with negative reviews, say the organisers. Heavens, no! Fact is that the gigs are going so well that they'd rather every last ticket went to The Fans. They're sure we understand. We do, we do ...

Meanwhile, the four intrepid theatre critics who are turning director at the Battersea Arts Centre have the opposite problem. They seem to be finding it difficult to entice other critics in to review their shows. The press corps is not normally known for its sensitivity to new directors, but critics are not exactly lining up to stick the boot into Nick de Jongh and Michael Billington. Dillie, of course, suggested several weeks ago that critic-bitten luvvies like Michael Bogdanov, RB Kitaj, Vanessa-Mae and Ismail Merchant should be pressed into service, and something very similar seems to be happening. "The four directors have close links with four publications, so we've suggested those publications commission directors to review," says BAC. The line-up so far is enough to make you quiver over your interval Loseley pots. Stephen Daldry on de Jongh (Standard), Sir Peter Hall on Jeremy Kingston (Times), and Dominic Dromgoole on Jimbo Christopher (Time Out). No one has yet volunteered to take on the colossus, Michael Billington, for the Guardian. So why are the critics fighting shy? "There's a degree of not wanting to hurt their colleagues' feelings," says the spokesman. "No there isn't," says my man in the stalls. "There's a degree of not wanting to review Am Dram."

Still, anyone who's ever been to a first night will know how the critics all like to get into a little gaggle at the interval. Sadly missing from the huddle is legendary (and now deceased) Mail critic Jack Tinker("Bell"). 'Twas saucy Jack who pioneered the outre "mug an usherette to get in" school of theatre criticism. This is a fail-safe way of getting your own name on the posters, and Jack was the maestro. A typical Tinkerism would run: "Go to drama school, spend four years working your way up as an ASM, then get a job in the theatre and watch this play from the wings - unmissable!" Now I see a spectacular effort in press advertisements for singing troupe Fascinating Aida: "See them before you die otherwise your life will have been meaningless," trumpets the Mail.