The King’s Speech my be stuttering to an early close in the West End, but there’s still room for the Queen’s English to be heard in serious plays and not just sung in musicals there. Just last night saw the transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon of David Edgar’s Written on the Heart to the Duchess: a bold, brave piece of producing, and one done with a certain amount of selflessness.
In the programme, lead producer Thelma Holt acknowledges the “sacrifices that everyone involved in this production, the creative team, the actors, the management in Stratford and indeed my co-producers have made.”
And then she acknowledges, too, a “number of private sponsors who have asked for nothing other than the pleasure of giving the London audience an opportunity to see the play”, and she proceeds to name them: Robert Cogo-Fawcett, Anthony Field Associates, Patrick Graucob, Alan Rickman, the Royal Theatrical Support Trust, Lord Salisbury and John Wood, with a final “special thanks to Lord Gowrie.”
That’s an impressive list and a welcome act of good faith in that rare thing, a new play in the West End. It’s a pity, though, that it’s opening last night was scheduled directly against a Donmar Warehouse opening for the second play in Josie Rourke’s long-ago announced opening season, Robert Holman’s Making Noise Quietly.
Though press night clashes are sometimes unavoidable in the crowded diary of openings that are routinely on offer in London and around the country, this transfer wasn’t giving either the Donmar or itself their best shot for coverage, especially on a show that had already been extensively reviewed already at Stratford and critics might therefore welcome an excuse not to cover again.
Whether critics return tonight, too, to re-visit the double bill of Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version and David Hare’s South Downs on its transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre, after having premiered at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre last year, is another question, but at least there’s no serious opening night clash to contend with.
As Broadway enters the home stretch of its season with this Thursday being the final date for productions to qualify to be in contention for this year’s Tony Awards, there are also six big openings there in just four nights: two opened against each other last night (Ghost and The Lyons, transferred from London and off-Broadway respectively), with two more tonight and tomorrow (Nice Work if You Can Get It tonight and The Columnist tomorrow); then two clashing again on Thursday (Leap of Faith and Don’t Dress for Dinner).
Of course, the problem with opening night clashes there isn’t so much to do with critics — they go early anyway, to a number of critics’ previews — but with red carpet coverage of the opening night arrivals and post-show parties. I expect my good friend Bruce Glikas, Broadway’s premiere chronicler of Broadway’s offstage life, to be run ragged.
But I’ve also noticed that one industry publication, at least, seems to have given up the struggle: Variety, once an indispensable insiders’ guide to everything that happens in the film, television and stage industries, has merely re-posted the London and LA reviews, respectively, of One Man Two Guvnors and Clybourne Park (from a year ago and four months ago in each case), instead of re-reviewing them on Broadway.
That’s certainly surprising, especially for a trade publication, which once would have been expected to give us an assessment of their receptions on Broadway, which can of course be a very different thing to London or LA, and to which adjustments are certain to have been made along the way. Will Ghost, which has the same two lead actors on Broadway as it did in the West End, be similarly relegated to a repeat run of its London notice, which called it “an evening of applauded effort rather than achievement”?
We’ll know this morning. We’ll also know if the production’s disastrous press preview last Thursday has any impact on the (rest of the) reviews, too. According to a report on Playbill.com, the show — attended by critics from the New York Times, the New York Post, Newsday, New York Daily News and other media outlets — was halted for 25 minutes owing to “a technical glitch - dare we say a goblin?”