Over on the Guardian website, Nicholas Hytner's (current NT Director) blast against 'dead white male theatre critics' seems to have provoked some washing of dirty linen in public, with No 1 drama critic Michael Billington and No 2 drama critic Lyn Gardner lobbing overpriced icecreams at each other from the back of the stalls. And as any NT goer worth a £10 Travelex seat will know, there have been a few duds recently at the National, but I still thought Hytner's comments a bit churlish.
The larger crisis in theatre today certainly isn't the critics, but rather a shortage of good new plays. There are plenty of mediocre ones around, and over-praising them isn't going to help anyone. But, thankfully, under praising doesn't have to kill them. Just take the Guardian's two-star bashing of the Royal Court's subsequent storming sell-out 'That Face'. The point is that sometimes, when half the critical world is up in arms, and the other half in rapture, then you could be in for a treat. Rather than pan the reviewers Hytner-style, isn't it better to get a sense of the individual critic's aesthetics and orient their taste in relation to yours? Thus one can formulate, in time, simple rules, such as (hypothetically of course): "If Lyn Garnder of the Guardian hates it, then I will love it."