Tag Archives: Emperor’s New Clothes

London’s West End stages something that was stuck on Damian Hirst’s shoe

London’s theatrical mask falls

London’s theatrical mask sometimes slips to show barrenness

I usually tell people I do not do reviews in this blog.

I tend to do previews not reviews. And only of productions which I have good reason to think are going to be good.

Today’s blog may explain why I do not do reviews.

The basic reason is that you have to be truthful, otherwise there is no point.

I have been invited to around six West End plays fairly recently and three of them were, I have to say, not good. I saw one this afternoon which had brilliant set design but was a right load of old bollocks.


Not a single second of it had any point or meaning from beginning to end.

Utter bollocks.

I could quote the Bard and say it was full of sound and fury signifying nothing… except it did not even have any fury to recommend it.

The full house audience (I suspect heavily ‘papered’) clapped fast and whooped loud with appreciation at the end. An intimation that, when you read any review of anything (perhaps especially from me), it can never by definition be anything other than very subjective.

To my mind, the play this afternoon (in a major West End theatre) was start-to-finish pointless. It had words which flowed into sentences which flowed into speeches. It sounded fluent. But the words were just sounds.

Well-delivered by the actors. Excellent set-design. Good lighting. Mostly good sound (the female lead needed to either project more or to be mechanically helped more).

But the play? Bollocks.

Outside, after the show, people were discussing it. One Chinese person with, I suspect, a limited understanding of English, was having the basic idea of the play explained to him. Others were discussing the subject of the play without, it seemed to me, much reference to the play itself.

As far as I was concerned it was – apparently like much being put on in the West End at he moment – a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

If a play is staged in a major West End theatre with decent acting and good technical production, no-one is prepared to admit that whoever commissioned it made a mistake.

I remember being told a possibly apocryphal story that the talented artist Damien Hirst was once on his way to a meeting with some money-men commissioning art. He stepped in some dog shit on the way and, entering the meeting room, took his shoe off and put it on the table as his latest work of art.

All the money-men accepted that it really was.

No-one complained that he was presenting them with a piece of shit and claiming it was Art, because he was Damian Hirst and they were not.

People who can do. People who can’t often present work by people who do without knowing what they are doing.

(The first person to tell me the name of the play I am talking about above gets a free copy of Malcolm Hardee’s out-of-print and excellently ghost-written autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.)

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