The most powerful theatre critic on Broadway, Ben Brantley of the New York Times, is back in London. For weeks.
Not that we don’t love visits from the “Sultan of Superlatives”, as coined by the NYTPicker as a much more positive strap line than infamous NYT critic Frank Rich’s “the Butcher of Broadway”!
But we shouldn’t be lulled in to a false sense of security. He did, after all, pretty much close Enron on Broadway with his less than glowing review of Lucy Prebble’s play: “flashy but labored economics lesson… this British-born exploration of smoke-and-mirror financial practices isn’t much more than smoke and mirrors itself.”
But we don’t bare grudges (much). His first posting from London reveals that he is straight in there reviewing, despite a touch of jet lag. Productions that he has already covered include The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar (“dramatically formulaic but meticulously acted”), All My Sons at the Apollo (“there’s no denying the effectiveness of Mr. Davies’s less subtle All My Sons”), Sucker Punch at the Royal Court (“vivid, gritty melodrama”) and The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Vaudeville (“for me the uneasiness and despair that often lurk beneath Mr. Simon’s one-liners had never seemed more palpable”).
Scarily harping back to Enron, Brantley senses that London is gripped with economic austerity. Perhaps he should see Enron again to remind himself why.
There’s no denying Mr Brantley, 55, and his credentials as a critic. He started work at the New York Times in 1993 as the second-string theatre critic and finally became chief theatre critic in 1996. His recent London review is beautifully written, considered, intelligent and thought-provoking. We love Libby Purves, chief critic of the London Times, but she seems to be in another job altogether.