Turning its pages into something as much akin to a blog as it is to a newspaper, The Guardian runs an interesting exercise every week when it invites artists to respond to their reviews (usually of the negative kind) in its pages. Today David Leveaux has replied to what he calls Michael Billington’s “grumpy” review of his production of Sinatra at the London Palladium, that Leaveaux says “does a disservice to the energy of the West End”.
“How it can be called ‘glitzy necrophilia’ to create a show involving footage of Sinatra doing what he did best – singing – escapes me. And unless it is somehow ‘necrophiliac’ to screen any film involving a performer who ahs since died, it is surely complete nonsense. As Tom Stoppard once said of a similarly flip and easy argument: it’s like exercising on a lilo.”
But at least Leveaux is exercising his comments in print, not in the bar. A couple of years ago New York theatre gossip columnist supreme, the New York Post’s Michael Riedel, earned a particular badge of honour when he was punched to the floor by an aggrieved Leveaux for Riedel’s relentless badgering of his Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof.
Critics have been threatened with physical violence from time to time, but Leveaux actually put his fist where Riedel’s mouth is. Billington should therefore consider himself lucky to have only been challenged in words, not deeds.