A small pleasure or sense of satisfaction derived from writing an autobiography is the opportunity it gives of taking a little revenge on those who you feel deserve it. I think particularly of one Mary McCarthy*, of Ben (Know it all) Hawthorne, now Raymond of course and evidently a big cheese in New Zealand theatre, and Charles Osborne. Of course if they don’t get the book and read it they will never know what has been said of them but I have at least had the satisfaction of saying it. I don’t think I’ve been too vicious, certainly not as vicious as Ms McCarthy in reviewing my play “Early One Morning” when it went on at the Arts Theatre all those years ago. Admittedly the production was pretty awful but I don’t think it was the fault of the play so much as the direction, staging, and a totally inadequate actress. I haven’t got her down on my list because, poor dear, it wasn’t really her fault. She was simply a bad actress who wasn’t up to it. It happens. I suppose one of the problems with critics who have little if any knowledge of the mechanics of theatre, and that probably include a goodly percentage of them, see a play purely from an audience point of view, a personal point of view, Ms McCarthy’s expertise at the time was on the woman’s page of The Guardian and, because my play opened on the same night as two others, obviously thought to be more important, that is where the mainstream critics went and I got whoever the various papers had available to send along. Ninety percent of an audience don’t have any knowledge of the theatre either and why should they? They enjoy a play or they don’t but would probably be hard put to know exactly why it fails for them. Every night the audience is a different animal and actors to an extent have to temper their performances to each audience. I remember when I was at the Vaudeville many years ago understudying Peter Cellier and Alistair Sim of all people (Who could possibly understudy Alistair Sim and get away with it? Fortunately I didn’t have to, he never missed a performance), and I was sitting in the stalls during a performance in order to watch them at work. Derek Fowlds, who had been doing Jackanory on the BBC, was in the cast and when he appeared a woman behind me said in a loud voice, “I wonder if he’s brought his squirrel!” The animal in question was actually a most famous fox, Basil Brush – boom boom! Stupid woman. It was at this point that I suddenly wondered for a moment why I ever went into the theatre in any shape or form in the first place. Fortunately the feeling passed.
*Not the American author.