Entertainment Why I don't want Sheridan Smith's Opening Night to...

Why I don't want Sheridan Smith's Opening Night to close


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Again and again, in the subsidised as well as the commercial sector, a major deficiency – exemplified by Opening Night  – keeps declaring itself: lack of finesse, a slapdash sense of “will this do?”, almost of work-in-progress landing as the finished article. We need dramaturgs to be more astute and hands-on. Writers’ egos notwithstanding, we also need people in the room early on, perhaps not even allied to the production so that complacent assumptions can be blasted, early decisions queried and group-think avoided. Performers are too often saddled with scripts that have a back-of-the-school-bus quality.

The blunt fact is that Opening Night wasn’t ready to open; and I’d argue that many of its flaws are remediable; there could easily have been more clarity about the play within the play, and the supposed conceit of a fly-on-the-wall documentary crew, for starters.

It has been a step forward to see much more of the experimental ethos of the subsidised sector take strong hold in the West End in recent years. A new, open and engaged mainstream audience has emerged. And the appetite for convention-defying fare is abundant; the runaway success, from fringe to the heart of theatreland, of Ryan Calais Cameron’s For Black Boys… demonstrates that when experimental playfulness is matched to deep-rooted truth and vital entertainment, the sky’s the limit. It doesn’t always need a stellar presence to change the game but we do need stars to take the plunge – and an attendant due diligence from those behind the scenes.

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