Theatre bans website's critic from show

By Kevin O’Donovan

The producers of a new West End play starring Dawn French have barred a critic writing for a theatre website and magazine from attending the show’s press preview.

Producers of Smaller, which opened at London’s Lyric Theatre on 5 April, told Whatsonstage.com and its sister publication, Theatregoer, that its writer would not be allowed access to the press-only performance.

The ban follows the website’s critical reports over ticket prices for a previous show by the same producer, Phil McIntyre Productions.

Theatregoer magazine and Whatsonstage.com editorial director Terri Paddock told Press Gazette: "We ran a story on Whatsonstage.com about ticket prices for [the Victoria Wood musical] Acorn Antiques several months before the show opened.

"It was picked up by the national press, but we weren’t just writing about that one show. We used that as an example of how high ticket prices can be — something that is of interest to our readers.

"We were then not invited to the Acorn Antiques press night, but the reason I was given was that no online publications were invited, as it was already oversubscribed.

"I eventually got it out of the PR that the ban from Smaller was in response to our earlier report on high ticket prices. I have not been able to talk to any of the show’s producers about the decision."

The website and magazine planned to send respected theatre critic Michael Coveney, who told The Independent newspaper that the decision was "pathetic".

Paddock added: "I have nothing against Dawn French or anyone else involved in the play itself, but I’m obviously not happy about the situation."

She has lodged a complaint about the ban with The Critics Circle, an organisation whose aims are "to promote the art of criticism and uphold its integrity in practice", although she admitted: "There really isn’t much I can do."

Both Whatsonstage.com and Theatregoer magazine are owned by Bandwidth Communications. The free monthly magazine, originally launched in 2000, is distributed in hotels and theatres across London, including the theatre where the play is running.

Phil McIntyre Productions did not respond to requests to speak to Press Gazette.

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