Theatre criticism is under renewed threat as The Evening Standard sheds its staff and the English National Opera withdraws tickets for critics' companions. Norman Lebrecht considers what reasonable accommodations are needed to keep criticism alive.
'Arriving as assistant editor of the London Evening Standard in March 2002, I dismissed nine critics and hired 12. This caused a bit of a stir since critics were held to be sacrosanct, but I felt the field was in need of a shakeout with far too many old-timers recycling idées fixes and few signs of renewal.
Not to mention the vested indulgences. One dear man informed me that it was his right to have an after-show dinner with a glass of wine on my budget, the better to digest a performance (as it were) before he reviewed it. Another confessed he could hardly bear to hang around for the second half of a concert. A third had to be regularly rewritten by the night desk.
The art critic Brian Sewell, a sacred monster, proclaimed himself one afternoon to be above “mere journalism”. I reminded him bluntly what paid his bills. Word flashed round the newsroom that I had sacked him. Ten minutes later, Brian whispered in my ear: “Might we have lunch?” We did, and he quietly accepted that I was bringing in someone else to review the Young British Artists (YBAs), whom Brian held in contempt.' ... Keep reading on The Critic