No less than four leading London drama critics (Michael Billington, James Christopher, Nicholas de Jongh and Jeremy Kingston) crossed the footlights this season to direct new and classic plays at the Battersea Arts Centre, thereby giving rise to considerable debate about whether this was permissible critical behavior. At least one of their colleagues, Michael Coveney, late of the Telegraph but now joining the Daily Mail, weighed in early with the opinion that the entire project was so misguided he wouldn't even be deigning to review such "amateur theatricals," but a number of others, including all concerned in the productions, took the view that it would be good for critics to get some idea of what life was like backstage after years of simply bitching about it from the relative comfort and safety of the stalls.
The debate rages on, with only Billington noting ruefully that they should perhaps have tried the whole experiment on the Isle of Mull, some way off the coast of Scotland, rather than under the glare of London lights. As for me, I'm taking Billington's advice and making my directing debut this summer at the Mill at Sonning, an enchanting Thames riverside theatre where we have Anita Harris and Peter Land in a new production of my Noel And Gertie with choreography by the great Gillian Lynne, currently celebrating 15 years of Cats on Broadway and preparing herself a brand new anthology of the songs of Burt Bacharach for Broadway this winter.
-- By Sheridan Morley