Memorable moments in the life of a Plymouth Theatre Critic
AS a theatre critic this time of year is a frustrating fallow period with nothing new to review. But exciting dramas are just around the corner – both on and off stage.
A critic's role is to review a drama – but on occasions the drama can take on an unscripted life of its own. Then, instead of simply addressing the plot, you find fact has upstaged fiction.
While looking forward to reviewing future shows I have cast my mind back to some memorable moments while attending theatres in the past.
One thing I learnt was – even if you have filed your copy, never leave a show before it is over.
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Once I had to phone my review over by 9.30pm to meet an early deadline of a morning paper. This meant writing it in the interval. Job duly done, I was surprised the bell hadn't rung for the second act.
The next thing I noticed was angry members of the audience filling the foyer. While I had been dictating my review the safety curtain, which came down at the end of act one, refused to budge for the beginning of act two. So, a hasty return to the phone – cancel that review. The play became its own story: 'Angry theatre goers are demanding their money back after safety curtain gets stuck'.
Being a live performance, theatre can be unpredictable which is part of its excitement.
One evening I visited a theatre for pleasure – only to end up phoning over a story on my night off because drama suddenly became news.
It was a production of J M Synge's delightful Playboy of the Western World. Set in the West Coast of Ireland, it was a favourite play which I knew well.
There was a choreographed fight scene that ended up in a strange and subdued huddle before finally shuffling into the wings; that was definitely not in the script. After a long silence the director came out to inform us the rest of the play was cancelled because one of the cast members had been concussed and was on his way to hospital.
This play had suddenly become a news story, and the headline the next day was: 'Irish fight stops play'.
Acting can be quite a dangerous profession. In a production of the long lamented North Devon-based Orchard Theatre, an actor had a tooth knocked out when a fellow thespian threw a bottle too enthusiastically.
He carried on the performance in true tradition of the show must go on – and at the end the producer asked if anyone knew a dentist who would help at 10.30pm at night. Now there was an optimist.
There is enough off-stage drama in theatrical productions for you to write a play about it.