Don't believe the hype: theatre in trouble over misleading billboard

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Advert used critic's praise to promote 'Shawshank Redemption' the play – when he was really referring to the film

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."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game