Food poisoning

John Simon (he’s a big deal in American critical circles, apparently, and is NOT the hairdresser who shows up first in Google) has started a blog in which he weighs in on the “is it fair for critics to review Spider Man” debate.

I know: yawn. But there was one part of the article which caught my eye, which goes to the broader “is it fair to review a preview” debate, on which I’ve had a few things to say previously.  Mr Simon writes that “under ordinary circumstances this would be highly unethical: like grabbing a dish from a restaurant kitchen before it is fully cooked, and then judging a meal by it.”


It’s difficult to know quite where to start picking holes in this analogy, but let’s start with this one: nobody’s breaking into Julie Taymor’s apartment and sneaking a peek at her vision souffle through the kitchen keyhole.  Those who have seen it and written on it have been actively invited by producers who clearly aren’t afraid of publicity, whether in the form of the enormous advertising hoardings outside the theatre, TV adverts, the 60 Minutes special feature, the photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz in December’s Vogue or the show’s website, which isn’t exactly shy about advocating that people come taste Taymor’s special sauce:

Quite apart from leaving the kitchen door open and inviting everybody in, the producers are charging (and charging a lot) for these tasty treats, so to imply immorality for expressing an opinion on what you see (taste, I suppose, to follow the analogy) at this or any preview performance in a blog or newspaper is quite a stretch.

Perhaps Mr Simon’s point is that it’s fine for lay persons to see these performances (and even express a view on them perhaps – he is mute on the scourge of bloggers ruining previews) but that it’s unfair for professional critics to jump in and eat their portions before the chef has cooked the dish to perfection.

Perhaps. Although surely any chef worth his salt (geddit?) would not serve food to paying customers that they wouldn’t serve to Messrs Gill, Coren or Michelin?  Here’s a tip: if people are leaving in ambulances, it’s probably not cooked.