What is it about Sarah Daniels' choice of material in general and her play The Madness of Esme and Shaz in particular that makes male critics take her work so personally?
Despite an almost universally hostile reception from the critical fraternity, the Royal Court production of The Madness of Esme and Shaz has been extended. The extended run is, however, not simply a gesture of faith. Box-office receipts have been consistently high.
Meantime, I look forward to the next production of Julius Caesar and a debate about the women's roles therein.
Theatre critics were out in force last Friday for the 1993 Critics' Circle London Theatre Awards. Although the voting yielded few surprises in most categories, merit was justly rewarded. Penelope Wilton was voted Best Actress for her outstanding performance in the Almeida revival of The Deep Blue Sea. Her husband, Ian Holm, added his Best Actor award to a mantelpiece already groaning under the weight of an Olivier Award for his return to the stage in Moonlight. Terry Hands did a similar double, winning Best Director for Tamburlaine, while Tom Stoppard's Arcadia won yet another award for Best Play. Gone, but not forgotten, City of Angels walked away with Best Musical, Ian MacNeil's extraordinary work on Machinal won him Best Designer, actress Emma Fielding won Most Promising Newcomer and, in a year of strong new writing, Simon Donald's The Life of Stuff netted him Most Promising Playwright.
The ceremony was held at the Theatre Museum in London, where some of the presenters will be returning next Tuesday at 5.30pm for a public debate. The subject? 'The Power of the Critic - disproportionate, exaggerated, or essential?' The critics Michael Billington, Jane Edwardes and Benedict Nightingale are pitted against David Thacker of the RSC and Nicholas Wright of the Royal National Theatre with writer Humphrey Carpenter as referee. Tickets are available from the Theatre Museum Box Office, 1e Tavistock St, London WC2 (071 836 7891).