No turn unstoned - 14 lines about theatre critics
I like people who do things, who make things happen. I much prefer the actors to the critics, the politicians to the pundits. There are local elections taking place in London today and I salute all the people who are standing in them - especially my daughter, Aphra, who hopes to become a councillor in the part of London where she lives. Out canvassing for her, I knocked on a door and said to the man who answered: 'I'm hoping you'll vote for my daughter.' 'What's she got to offer?' he asked. 'Integrity and intelligence,' I said. 'Are you sure she's your daughter?' he replied.
I know a lot of politicians and I admire most of them for the commitment and energy they give to public service. They're out there trying to make a difference. Well done them.
I know a lot of theatre people, too, and admire them for the way they put their talent on the line. I have rather less time for 'the critics'. I suppose we need them to spread the word, and some of them do what they do with style, intelligence and heart. The playwright Bernard Shaw is credited with describing a critic as someone who 'leaves no turn unstoned'. Here are some of my other favourite lines about theatre critics.
Attila the Hun were alive today, he’d be a dramatic critic. Edward Albee
Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They’re there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can’t do it themselves. Brendan Behan
When The Rink opened, The New York Times critic Frank Rich was not kind. Liza Minnelli was distraught. “He dismissed me in two sentences,” she cried. Librettist Terrence McNally replied, “You’re lucky. He dismissed me in two very long paragraphs."
At any London first night you’ll see the critics creeping off to the pub halfway through Act III. Of course they pretend they have to catch the early editions. Basil Boothroyd
There are nowadays a sort of persons they call critics that, egad, have no more wit in them than so many hobby horses. George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, 1671
Critics never worry me unless they are right –but that does not often occur. Noel Coward
There are very few critics who when given an egg of talent in their hands can resist crushing it. Peter Hall
My performance in The Sport of Kings continued to improve, though the local critic wrote that I was too inexperienced for the role. I found out later that she was still at school. Nigel Hawthorne while at the Royal Theatre Northampton 1954
The critic is often an unsuccessful author, almost always an inferior one. Leigh Hunt
A critic is a legless man who teaches running. Channing Pollock
As for the little puny critics, who scatter their peevish strictures in private circles, and scribble at every author who has the eminence of being un-connected with them, as they are usually spleen-swollen from a vain idea of increasing their consequence, there will always be found a petulance and illiberality in their remarks which should place them as far beneath the notice of a gentleman, as their original dullness had sunk them from the level of the most unsuccessful author. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, preface to The Rivals 1775
They search for ages for the wrong word which, to give them credit, they eventually find. Peter Ustinov
Definition of a critic: A newspaperman, whose sweetheart ran away with an actor Walter Winchell
Has anybody seen a dramatic critic in the daytime? Of course not. They come out after dark, up to no good. P. G. Wodehouse, New York Mirror 1955.