Hon Gen Sec
Opening the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards this week, comedian Arthur Smith, the unofficial Mayor of Balham, announced that he was going to build a wall around his South West London borough and charge it to the neighbouring council. 'Who’s going to pay for it?' he asked. ‘Clapham!’ the critics roared back, delighted to be able to combine political satire with traditional panto and not have to write about it. He treated us to a joke about a man who found himself washed up on a desert island with Angelina Jolie, but punchlines cost money and it would be wrong to broadcast Arthur’s for free; suffice to say Balham’s Councillor of Comedy is professional enough to give his best material in exchange for the Circle’s modest fee.
Member No 450, Chair of the Theatre section and master of ceremonies Mark Shenton hovered beside the baby grand at the back of the stage as if he were about to sing. He quoted an article on ‘the death of expertise’, though it is not really the skill which is dying out but the people willing to pay for it. These include both newspaper editors and the reading public who save their paper outlay, consult freeby blogs and elect demagogues. The only comfort is that we have always worried about this. Even in 1610, the composer Orlando Gibbons set the poem The Dying Swan, which concludes ‘more geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.’
Ms Jolie was not present, but Glenda Jackson and Billie Piper were and received awards, one for King Lear, the other for Yerma. The full list of winners is in the Drama menu of this website. Presenting the award for Best Shakespearean Performance, Member No212, the Observer’s Susannah Clapp, praised Ms Jackson’s stdy of old age for her portrayal of ‘the creeping death of the mind’. This was not a love-in for critics and performers as Ms Jackson went on to remind us. She had, she said, often been critical of critics in her long career. Yet she was grateful now ‘for the opportunity to kiss and make up’.
For her part, Ms Piper was reserved and humbled in response to the citation for Best Actress given by Member No353, the Evening Standard’s Henry Hitchings, who hours after his ecstatic repsnose in the theatre, had a delayed reaction and was seen blubbing uncontrollably on a station platform.
Hon Gen Sec
Enquiries about the Critics' Circle should be made to the Hon Gen Sec Rick Jones by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 8698 2460.