Thursday, May 15, 2014
NO TURN UNSTONED Diana Rigg
"... And Mr. John Mills wanders about the stage at the St. James theatre looking like a bewildered carrot."
Actress Diana Rigg (best-known for TV's The Avengers] wrote to her fellow thespians in the UK and US, asking for them to send her their worst notices -- brave lady! Some didn't comply, some sent notices that were really backhanded compliments, and some sent truly terrible reviews [although in some cases Rigg ferreted out even worse ones, which probably didn't endear her to her colleagues]. The book doesn't just cover 20th century actors but goes back to the days of Sarah Bernhardt and even Shakespeare (as well as later productions of his plays), and it reveals that even the bard had his detractors, such as George Bernard Shaw, who himself had people who were not overly fond of his work. Reviews not only focus on performances, but on playwrights, productions, scenery, new trends, and the like. No Turn Unstoned may not be a laugh-out-loud type of book but it is revealing of how people viewed the theater during different periods of history, and enlightens us as to the critics' [often maladjusted] thinking as well. Although Rigg concentrates on the theater world, she does include reviews from movies if they were sent in by one of her colleagues. In addition to much theater work -- she includes a couple of her own bad reviews -- Rigg also starred in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Verdict: Erudite and stylish like the author herself. ***.