Is theater more enjoyable in London because of the age-old tradition of drinking before a play?
Perhaps it’s more fun for the drinkers, but no fun for actors. We hate when the audience is bombed before a play, because they always get sleepy.
—Molly Ringwald, actress (West End production of When Harry Met Sally)
Do theatergoers in New York and London behave any differently during a play?
In New York, you have the horrible standing ovation. It’s ludicrous. If you don’t get one in New York, it means you’re actively disliked.
—Benedict Nightingale, Times (U.K.) drama critic
Who has fiercer critics?
London. They’ve become addicted to put-down criticism. It’s partly Ken Tynan’s fault—he gave the public a taste for it.
—Kenneth Cranham, actor
Is there an equivalent in New York to the National Theatre?
No, and this is the most serious difference between the two cities. The Public and Lincoln Center produce very good work, but there’s no continuity or sense of tradition. Hence actors, directors, designers and writers don’t get a chance to develop their work. Every show is a new start.
—Sir Richard Eyre, director
Which city has the best post-theater scene?
Londoners have to travel far away to home, so there’s less community spirit. In New York, nobody has to get back to Wimbledon.
Arriving in London next week?
Here’s Times drama critic Benedict Nightingale’s top picks for visiting New Yorkers:
‘John Gabriel Borkman’ at the Donmar Warehouse.
‘The Entertainer’ at the Old Vic.
‘Sizwe Banzi Is Dead’ at the National Theatre.
‘Porgy and Bess’ at the Savoy.
‘Boeing-Boeing’ at the Comedy Theatre.
‘The Glass Menagerie’ at the Apollo.
‘Billy Elliot’ at the Victoria Palace.