Monday, 19 November 2007


I've said before that the extent to which I usually agree with Lyn Gardner is a little giddying. Some people like a critic who's a reliable barometer of their own tastes. Some like to stand proudly aside from the whole hubbub. I'm in the latter, smug contrarian, camp. But Gardner consistently hits the mark.

All of which is prelude to a rare but impassioned quarrel with her most recent post on the Guardian blog. I don't disagree with anything she says in her "tips on the best drama around the country". The shows in there I've seen are great, the ones I haven't I want to. So what's up?

The clue is in that phrase "around the country". Let's do some sums. By my count, seventeen events are recommended. Of those, thirteen will take place in London. Of the other four - or, to look at it another way, of the shows mentioned in the one paragraph that looks outside the M25 - two are by London-based companies, and a third (A Play a Pie and a Pint) is noteworthy because someone in London (Paines Plough) borrowed the idea. Tim Crouch lives and works in Brighton. Gardner even goes so far, in her mention of Gecko's new show, as to say "if you want a sneak preview [...] before it arrives at the Lyric in January", thus managing to imply that anyone watching theatre outside London must be a Londoner looking to get ahead of the game.

I'm not seeking to deny that much of the country's best theatre is originated and/or performed in London. Obviously it is, and I frequently go to London to catch up on new work. But not all of it is. And if you're going to give us a column on the best theatre around the country, then tell your readers beyond the orbital something they don't know, or stick to London and be done with it; and get Hickling to blog on the north.

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