It is with some trepidation that one reviews The Critic, a
play which ridicules the very occupation of theatre reviewing.
Sheridan does not, however, merely direct his satirical quill
against critics but against all players in the theatrical world.
Director Luke Sandler has created a period piece, complete with
sumptuous 18th century costumes and a set inspired by Georgian
playhouses. What emerges is a ridiculous yet timeless portrayal
of the bitchy, backbiting world of luvviedom which bears more
than a little resemblance to Oxford’s own drama scene. The play opens chez Dangle (Sheridan Edwards), a hapless
critic and self-confessed theatre groupie who cares more about
theatrical intrigues than real-life politics. Dangle strikes a
comical figure, his voice rising into evercamper intonations as
he becomes indignant at his over-bearing wife. Mrs Dangle
(Heather Oliver) projects her lines confidently and adds zest
with her acidic tongue. As the play proceeds, we are introduced to a host of ludicrous
luvvies, including Sir Fretful Plagiary, a talentless writer who
cannot take criticism. He is admirably (over-) played by Dominic
Mattos, a drama queen mincing around the stage, flapping his
hands and pouting. We also meet Sneer (Alasdair Glennie), a world-weary critic
and master of damning with faint praise, and Puff (David
Cochrane), another foolish writer. These last two are a little
understated alongside the other exaggerated figures, although
both capture the posturing affectation of their characters
through body language. The cast handles the mannered dialogue with varying degrees of
success; for some it seems an effort to recall and project their
lines which results in an occasional lack of presence on the
stage. The dialogue livens up with a slapstick rehearsal of
Puff’s play, The Spanish Armada, which pokes fun at
theatrical conventions from courtroom scenes to death scenes and
a hilarious recognition scene. Actors, directors and critics all
come under fire as we are invited to laugh at the melodramatic
play within a play. A silly play, maybe, but a fun evening’s entertainment
and, dare one say, compulsory viewing for OUDS members. Thespians
and critics alike, we could all learn something from Mr Sheridan.ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2004