Lindsay accuses critics of vile plot

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The Independent Online
HELL HATH no fury like an actor in receipt of a bad review. In the case of Robert Lindsay the fury is accompanied by pain, paranoia, outrage and soul-baring. But then he did receive a stinker.

Lindsay, who is playing Richard the Third for the Royal Shakespeare Company production of the same name, bared his increasingly tortured soul to a small gathering at Stratford-upon-Avon for a question and answer session about his career.

He used it as an opportunity to lash out at the critics, accusing them of colluding with each other in writing their reviews. He deplored the "maulings" given to Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren after their performances in the National Theatre's Antony And Cleopatra. He claimed such critical maulings might stop star actors doing long seasons for low pay.

Displaying a paranoia unusual even in actors, he said that his first- night audience was watching the critics rather than the stage - an experience which, if true, would have been numbingly boring.

He told theatregoers at the question and answer session this week: "These critics have an agenda. You see them on first nights and they do collude and swap, and that's what I want to see stopped. It has got to stop. There must be a press week, where they come over a week, and not en masse and affect the audience as they did that night. I saw people watching the critics, because I spend most of my time talking to the audience, and no one was looking at me...what is the point?"

Lindsay, a star of TV's GBH and Citizen Smith as well as an acclaimed stage actor, used the question and answer session to assure theatregoers he had not meant what he said in a radio interview when he accused audiences of being spoilt.

But in clearing up one controversy he strode headlong into another. The radio interview, he said, "was the following day after the opening night, which was an extremely emotional night for all of us. I was tired and I was a bit stressed and I had read the worst review I have ever read in my life, which was aimed at me, and I was a little bit volatile that morning, but I think a lot of things have been taken out of proportion." The review he was referring to was by Michael Billington, The Guardian's critic, who wrote that Lindsay "exchanges nods, becks, and wreathed smiles with the front rows as if he were Ken Dodd playing the Palladium. Indeed, at any moment I half expected him to cry `Hello Missus!'"

Though Lindsay also received some good reviews and audience appreciation for the production, which transfers to the Savoy Theatre, London, in January, he gave an eloquent insight into the pain felt by an actor on reading a veritable stinker. He said of the critics: "I can't tell you how much they hurt, and particularly when they're wrong. I'm just trying to say that I think it's going to get harder and harder if people don't start treating actors in this country with respect a little bit more. People won't come up and do these seasons in repertoire because the attractions are not huge." He went on: "I think actors are far more reluctant, and particularly when people like Alan and Helen receive such maulings in the press... I have to say.

"Some of it was so personal it made me really angry. They put their careers on the line, they do. They don't need to do that, we don't need to do it. We do it because we love it..."

Leading Article,

Review, page 3 Lindsay - The Critics' View "It's a performance that revels in the Machiavellian monarch's sheer outrageousness and capacity for limping rings round everybody." - Paul Taylor, The Independent

"Indeed, with his north country vowels, shy smiles and faintly camp manner, Lindsay often put me bizarrely in mind of Alan Bennett reading the role of Eeyore on Jackanory." - Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

"He catches the mockery and self-mockery, the bitterness, the aggro and, above all, the confidence of a man in absolute control of his fearsome destiny." - Benedict Nightingale, The Times

"Lindsay is one of those actors who can command a large audience with the whites of his eyes, or a slight pursing of his mouth, and here he takes over the stage at once like a natural conqueror. [But] Lindsay's verse-speaking becomes uneven..." - John Peter, The Sunday Times

"At any moment I half expected him to cry `Hello Missus'." - Michael Billington, The Guardian