Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

Critical condition

Lloyd Evans on the perils of being both playwright and critic

Lloyd Evans on the perils of being both playwright and critic

‘No man sympathises with the sorrows of vanity.’ Dr Johnson was speaking of a poet who looked to his friends for solace after his verses had been savaged in the press. He got none. That’s the risk all artists take. I’ve been through this experience myself (and I’m about to submit to the ordeal once again), and though I found it hurtful and humiliating to have my work trashed in public, it also enriched my understanding of the theatre and assisted me as a professional critic.

In 2005 Toby Young and I collaborated on a sex farce, Who’s the Daddy?, which enjoyed a sell-out run on the London fringe and won a best new comedy award in a trade paper. The following year we wrote A Right Royal Farce, a light-hearted spoof set in Buckingham Palace. We knew it was a big risk to mount a second satirical comedy in the same theatre. The law of the newsroom states that success should be followed by failure and our new play needed to be only a teeny bit worse than our first for us to get a right royal hammering. And we did. The critics didn’t just skin us alive, they turned us into handbags. ‘The worst thing to hit London since the Blitz,’ said one of the kinder notices. A sofa-filler on Late Review called the play the most worthless human artefact the programme had ever considered. In one of the newspapers where stars are awarded, the reviewer called for a whole new scale of evaluation to be invented. Giving us ‘no stars’ was far too charitable. We deserved negative stars, death stars, black holes, imploding supernovae.

In my columns I’d vultured other people’s work plenty of times.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in