Don't believe the hype: theatre in trouble over misleading billboard
Advert used critic's praise to promote 'Shawshank Redemption' the play – when he was really referring to the film
Thursday 26 November 2009
A West End theatre could be the first to come a cropper over the practice of taking selective quotations from reviews to give the misleading impression that critics have been raving about the production.
Trading standards officers have opened an inquiry into an advertisement displayed on a billboard outside the Wyndhams Theatre which suggested to passers-by that a critic had praised the play being staged inside – when in fact he had advised people not to waste their money going to see it.
Most discerning consumers realise that the single sentence from a review splashed on a billboard, or on the cover of a book, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Taken out of context, a few words can suggest that a critic is encouraging people to enjoy a work, which they actually think is rubbish.
In a review published in September, Charles Spencer was so unimpressed by this production of The Shawshank Redemption that he advised anyone thinking of going to see it to buy a DVD of the film instead. Mr Spencer is not, generally, a fan of plays that are no more than stage adaptions of popular films.
He also disagreed with those who think that the 1994 film of the same name is one of the greatest ever made, although he conceded that it is "a superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting prison drama". The play, he thought, was inferior "in almost every respect" and the set was "blandly predictable".
Walking past the Wyndhams Theatre soon after his review had appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Spencer was surprised to see himself quoted on the billboard outside. The theatre had taken the words "superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting prison drama" as if they referred to the stage production, and had ignored everything else he wrote.
Reacting to the fact that the play's run will end early on Sunday, Spencer said: "I'm delighted that The Shawshank Redemption is shutting up shop. It was nothing like as powerful or moving as the film [and] I have another reason for wishing it ill, and that is the dishonesty of its advertising."
The practice of ripping a few words from a critic's review has annoyed people for years, but until recently it was not illegal. But in 2005, the EU introduced the Unfair Consumer Practices Directive, which was incorporated in British law in 2008. The new regulations make it an offence to sell someone goods that they would not have bought otherwise by using advertising or sales patter that contains "misleading omissions".
Sue Jones, spokesman for Westminster council's Trading Standards, said: "It is not acceptable for any theatre to mislead the public. Nobody has filed any complaints in this instance, but now we are aware of the issue we will be contacting the theatre concerned and ask for an explanation of the wording. If we are not satisfied with their response we will not hesitate to take further action."
The Independent view
The following is taken from Paul Taylor's review on 14 September:
"The writers, Owen Neill and Dave Johns, have argued that theatre is a medium that uses metaphor better than film. Their handling of this resource is shaky and limited. Ferdia Murphy's set... looks like a giant budgie cage. Crucially lacking is any palpable feel of the slow passage of time... Peter Sheridan's production never finds the right recurring rhythms with which to convey this."
filmIn Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 School playground evacuated over 'unusually aggressive' grey squirrel
- 2 Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke beats opponent 33 years his junior in exhibition boxing match
- 3 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 4 Today was a bad day for renters, landlords, and democracy
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer: What we know about JJ Abrams' film
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Christmas TV schedule 2014: The best shows to watch from Downton Abbey to Black Mirror
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
David Cameron sets out immigration reforms: We should distrust Ukip and their 'snake-oil of simple solutions'
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police