The outgoing Evening Standard theatre reviewer Henry Hitchings takes a little time to reflect with 10 easygoing questions
We actually did this Q&A before the Evening Standard made their shocking decision to axe one of the country’s best theatre critics due to cost-cutting measures. So there’s a little poignancy to some of the answers here, as well as a potential business plan for the future… In all seriousness though, Henry was and is a real inspiration as a writer and a huge support in making me – and others – feel part of a critical community that too often felt (feels?) resistant to newcomers. I look forward to his next steps and to continuing to read his words.
Where were you 10 years ago?
Sitting on a park bench waiting for someone enchanting to walk by. One thing theatre taught me long ago is that if you want to have a magical encounter you need to spend as much time as possible sitting on park benches. This was before Tinder, obviously!
Best show you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
You Me Bum Bum Train. (But for everyone who rode the Train, the question remains: did you see it, or did it see you?)
What has been your professional highlight of the last 10 years?
A young playwright telling me he cried with joy when he read my rave review of his debut.
Top flavour of interval ice-cream?
Unfortunately, ice cream doesn’t agree with me. (Cue the inevitable joke: “Does anyone?”) So it’s mango sorbet, if anything.
What show do you wish theatres would give a rest for a few years?
Hmm. There are several Shakespeares that come round inordinately often. But I’m going for Uncle Vanya, even though I love it. I reserve a special kind of odium for the programme note that says “Most people don’t realise that Chekhov is funny. We know better.”
Name someone who you think is a really underappreciated talent (in the world of theatre)?
Designers generally, including the people who design the posters for shows. I’d also mention Stephen Jeffreys, who died last autumn; his influence on other playwrights of the last thirty years was immense, but I don’t think his name is widely known.
Elphaba or Glinda?
Elphaba. “No wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring me down.”
What is one thing that you think would help theatre survive and/or thrive the next ten years?
I’m confident that the appetite for theatre’s immediacy is strong and is going to remain so. One thing that’s essential, though, is ensuring that all young people have access to the arts, which shouldn’t be shunted to the edge of the curriculum.
Which is your favourite theatre?
Probably the Young Vic. I always feel excited to be there.
Can you say anything about what’s to come for you, (in the next ten years or otherwise)?
I’m planning to launch a range of theatre snacks that can be unwrapped and consumed noiselessly. Some will be sweet, others mild, and a fair few will be zingy or unexpectedly sour. I can’t imagine where I got the idea!