Critic's Choice Kenneth Williams
Interviewee: “David Frost” (Not the real David
Frost, of course, but Kenneth Williams.)
A: Good evening, and welcome once again to Theatre
Spotlight. Now, last week The Heron Dies, a new play by
David Frost opened in London. The author is in the studio this evening to talk
about it. Mr. Frost, how would you say your play has been received?
B: The Heron (Dies) has
had a very mixed critical reception, ranging right from “disastrous” all the
way up to “abysmal”. The
(Daily) Telegraph found it “tedious”, The
found it “insufferable” and The
Express didn't find it at all - or rather, they
found it and left after only seven minutes’ playing time. My writing has been
variously described as “trite”, that's The
(Daily) Telegraph again, “trivial”, that was Mr.
Tynan’s word for it, and “effete” - The
Evening News - was the nearest I got to a
compliment – effete, effete, effete. Yes. The direction of the play, also by
myself, is generally thought to be either “loose”, “weak” or
“non-existent” and the playing of the leading role by my wife has been
universally dismissed as “ludicrous”, so I think you can say we have had a
pretty mixed bag.
Then you are very disappointed at this reception?
No, no I am not
disappointed or rather, let me put it another way, I am disappointed. But
it is a very difficult play to enjoy and I am not at all surprised that once
again the critics have proved themselves incapable of appreciating my work.
And how has the public reacted to the piece?
The reaction of the general public has been extremely favourable.
Those we have had in, have sat there very quietly and the bar sales have been
out of this world.
Now, Mr. Frost when I passed the theatre this morning I noticed a great deal of
activity going on outside.
Oh yes, that was the management, they were very busy plastering up all the
favourable notices which the play has received.
But I thought you said it has been universally condemned.
Well, that is true, but we managed to salvage one or two excerpts from the
reviews that we feel will take, take the public in (!) - draw - the public in.
Yes, you may have noted that one: “This play lasts three hours”, The
that will appeal, you see, to people who like to get their money’s worth. And
then there is “What an evening in the theatre!”, remember that one, Daily
Oh yes. “What an evening in the theatre!”, yes. We had to cut out the word
“atrocious”, we didn't feel it was fulfilling any useful purpose, so we put
a few exclamation marks in instead. And then there was “Mr. Frost has a hit”,
it was a hit?
No, that's an extract from a longer sentence that Mr. Darlington wrote: “Mr.
Frost has a hit-and-miss approach to the theatre which I find utterly
exasperating.” Then there was: “A feast of impeccable acting”, (The)
But surely, The
has gone out of existence!
that is nearly a reconstruction of what we feel Mr. Allan Dent would have
written had the paper been alive.
Now, Mr. Frost there was one other notice which attracted my attention this
morning, the one by Harold Hobson.
Oh yes, I’m very glad you mention that - one of our better efforts, yes :
“An evening of incomparable theatrical splendour. Lovely performance by Stella
Frost, haunting, human, hilarious. I shall go again and again and again.” Oh
yes, we are very proud of that one.
Mr. Frost, I read The
review and as far as I can remember, he said that it was one of the most
distressing evenings he had ever spent in the theatre.
B: That is true. Mr. Hobson didn't appear to
enjoy the play at all. But as you know, these critics have to write their pieces
in a great hurry. They have to work to a deadline, you know. And quite often I
think they say things they don't really mean at all. That's the charitable view
of it, anyway. So, here we have taken the liberty of extracting individual
letters from Mr. Hobson's original review and putting them together more
carefully than he would have had time to do.
But surely, that is a gigantic distortion of the truth!
That is correct, it’s gigantic.
Do you mean to say, you are quite deliberately setting out to deceive the public
by twisting the critic's words to suit your own purposes?
That is the plan.
Well, Mr. Frost I can only say I am utterly disgusted at your behaviour and I
think your play is the most boring rubbish ever to reach London.
B: Thank you. May I quote you on that?
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