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Shouts and Murmurs – April 16, 2024

Hello, and welcome to Shouts And Murmurs, a weekly email for paid supporters of The Crush Bar, written by me, Fergus Morgan.

Every week, I round up the best theatre writing elsewhere – reviews, interviews, opinion, long-reads – plus any other interesting theatre-related stuff I find. Usually, it is all behind a paywall but this week, in something of a social experiment, I have decided to put the paywall halfway down so you free subscribers can read the top bit, see what you’re missing, and feel compelled to become a paid supporter (£5/month or £50/year) to get this quality content every week.

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This week’s issue is extra long on account of my fortnight-long, birthday-induced absence. It contains: a look back at the various depressing theatre news from the last fortnight; a quick scan of the reviews of Opening Night, Player Kings, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, James V: Katherine, and more; and some links to other theatrical interviews and features worth reading.

Thanks for reading The Crush Bar, as always. If you want to do me one more favour, then you can share this newsletter far and wide and encourage others to subscribe via the button below.

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Previously in The Crush Bar:

A lot happened while I was away…

…and most of it was pretty depressing. Francesca Amewudah-Rivers was announced as Juliet to Tom Holland’s Romeo and was promptly subjected to some appalling racist abuse from Marvel-worshipping incels, right-wing gobshites who have never seen a Shakespeare play – or any play, for that matter – in their lives, and Twitter accounts with more numbers than letters in their handles. The show’s producers – The Jamie Lloyd Theatre Company – released a statement condemning the abuse. Susan Wokoma organised an open letter in solidarity with Amewudah-Rivers that has been signed by over 800 black female and non-binary performers. She also spoke to Woman’s Hour about the petition. Nina Bowers wrote about how casting decisions have been hijacked by the culture wars in The Guardian. And Dr Sophie Duncan did a Twitter/X thread for Shakespeare’s Globe on the actual history of the character.

Meanwhile, The Globe itself has been at the centre of another casting controversy, following the announcement that artistic director Michelle Terry plans to play Richard III. Disabled Artists Alliance – an 281-strong campaign group formed after the announcement – said that the “independently mediated conversation” it had with The Globe in March had achieved nothing and that “The Globe’s artistic desires mean more to them than disabled people’s welfare and justice.” Jenny Sealey, artistic director of deaf and disabled-led theatre company Graeae, also criticised the casting – and chose The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks! – when she went on Desert Island Discs a few weeks ago. As it stands, Terry is still set to play Richard III, starting in early May.

What else? The Olivier Awards happened. Some actors had their photos taken. Some people won. Some people had some thoughts. The only thing I was interested in reading was David Benedict’s explanation of the baffling judging process in The Stage.

Also: a famous theatre person said something silly about content warnings and everyone got mad at him but we don’t need to go over all that again here, DO WE?

Plus: Ivo Van Hove and Rufus Wainwright’s Opening Night will close over two months early. It makes for a fascinating case study, methinks. Sure, adapting a John Cassavetes movie into a hit musical was a stretch, but it was created by a visionary director and a famous singer-songwriter, starred a genuine, bona-fide theatrical superstar, and there was a monumental press effort to let everyone know about it. Then it got some honking write-ups – see below – and now the producers have pulled the plug. It is tempting to see its closure as proof that theatre reviews still have some power over sales, but I’m not sure. I think it is more a case of people simply having no idea what it was. I’m also not sure Van Hove is the commercial drawsome producers seem to think he is: the big Belgian has always seemed an odd fit for the West End to me. Anyway, some critics were left in the strange position of hating the show but lamenting its early exit. They might not like the show you are making, but they will defend to death your right to make it. It is Sheridan Smith I feel sorry for. Again.

One last hullaballoo to bring you in this top section: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has been in the news for several reasons. Firstly, because this year’s event looks set to be the biggest, baddest yet. Secondly, because the Frince Society is slowly ticking off awful transport corporations to partner with, having followed its plan to park a cruise ship in the Firth of Forth with a plan to fly planeloads of Americans to Edinburgh this August via the airline JetBlue. (I believe they have had discussions with ScotRail, too, so that’s planes and trains ticked off: now they just need to hook up with FreeNow.) Thirdly, because chief executive Shona McCarthy has demanded a meeting with the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland so they can explain why they are being such stingy bastards. And fourthly, because Jason Manford and Gail Porter revealed they were not so keen on spending thousands of pounds on an AirBnB in August. Comedy critic Bruce Dessau covers that bit here in his brand new Substack:

Bruce’s SubstackCould this be the year that the Edinburgh Fringe bubble finally bursts?It is still only April and chilly outside, but there is already heated debate about August’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The problem is the escalating cost of accommodation. A one-month Fringe stay has never come cheap, but for the hundreds of comedians hoping to head up there to hone their craft and maybe even be talent-spotted, the costs really are no …Read more12 days ago · 2 comments · Bruce Dessau

I mean, honestly! The whole thing is such a mess! Nobody seems to know what to do! What we really need is a thoughtful, Edinburgh-based arts journalist with a good understanding of both the performing arts industry’s ongoing issues around affordability and accessibility AND the crisis affecting the Scottish capital’s housing market and the complicated local legislation recently introduced to control it. He probably has some great ideas about how to deal with all this shit. But where can we find such a unicorn?! And who will pay him to write about this stuff articulately and insightfully?! If only he had some sort of email newsletter we could support?!

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