From Sheridan Morley Sir: Could somebody give Toby Young a reliable theatrical history, preferably one of mine? One minor example, taken at random from your otherwise superb Christmas double issue: ‘As far as I know,’ writes Young of his own solo show which mercifully I missed (though I could have made a small fortune accepting the number of Fleet Street offers I had to review it), ‘this is the first time a critic has appeared on the West End stage.’ As far as Young knows must be a distance measurable in millimetres, and this is not the first time I have had to point it out. Briefly, then, the late and much missed Kenneth Tynan got his first job on the London Evening Standard as a theatre critic by writing a savage letter to the editor objecting to a review by Beverly Baxter who (in the early 1950s) had accused Tynan of being ‘amateur’ while playing a minor role in a modern-dress Alec Guinness Hamlet.
In more recent times Joyce Grenfell, while radio critic of the Observer, made several starring appearances in the West End, and dare I add that I played at the Whitehall theatre in Spread a Little Happiness, a celebration of the late, great songwriter Vivian Ellis, which originally I had put together for the King’s Head. Other critics with playwriting credits include Jeremy Kingston (Signs of the Times) and Frank Marcus (The Killing of Sister George).