October 30, 2008

A Critical Retraction:
From British theatre critic Mark Shenton: Critics are only human - we all make mistakes. And no one beats me up more for mine than me! So today it’s time to fess up, as they say Stateside, to one of mine: I’ve already admitted here to attending Waste at the Almeida (not so) fresh from a transatlantic return journey, and now I’ve discovered that I must have written my review, too, in an advanced state of jetlag, too.

In my Sunday Express notice, I referred to a fine ensemble cast that includes “Will Keen as the politician and the superb, graceful Phoebe Nicholls as his long-suffering wife. ” Except, of course, that Phoebe Nicholls is playing his sister, not wife.


But at least I am not alone: I did a quick trawl of other reviews, and discovered that the identical mistake was perpetrated by two other colleagues! In his Tribune notice, Aleks Sierz even draws the conclusion that it reveals that the play suggests that the English are not much good at love: “When his wife, Frances, finally confronts him at the end of the story, Henry shows a sublime indifference which makes you wonder why the couple haven’t gone their separate ways long ago. No, the chief erotic drive in the play - and the only thing that makes it bearable to watch- is its boys’ club politics: not sex, but power. When the men talk affairs of state, the pulse quickens. Directed stolidly by Samuel West, Waste is a perfect example of the ghastly lack of warmth between the sexes among the English upper classes during the first part of the last century.”

And in the
Jewish Chronicle, John Nathan writes, “Phoebe Nicholls as Trebell’s loving but sexually uninterested wife outshines even Keen’s excellent performance.” Those two further wrongs, of course, don’t make it right that I got it so wrong, too - and of course our common mistake is now embedded for posterity in the pages of Theatre Record and/or the internet. So I apologise unreservedly and publicly to Ms Nicholls....
His blunder was apparently the result of his having fallen asleep in the middle of the play, which I assume is a common West End malady, much like heading to the exits in the seventh inning is at Dodger Stadium. And of course, some of the responsibility for that snafu has to be shouldered by Phoebe Nicholls, an actress of such refined skill and classic beauty that she possesses the power to cloud the minds of even the most hardened critic into confusing filial devotion with marital ennui. Nevertheless, I may be making a quick, post-election trip to London to see Waste, so long as I can find lodging of some sort; before I die, I have to see the Phoenician on stage at least once.

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