I wrote to the Evening Standard today expressing my horror at the Olivier Award nominations (out today). I have recently discovered the process that creates the list of nominations is at best flawed and at worst deeply corrupt. Here's how it works. A small judging panel of theatre professionals is selected each year. Their task is to watch every eligible show. 87 this year. They are then charged with creating a short list of potential nominees which is sent to 70 members of SOLT (Society of London Theatres.) The SOLT members vote on the list and those with the highest number of votes become the nominees. The list of nominees is then given back to the judging panel, who decide on the winners. It sounds simple and fair, but it's not...
Unfortunately, the 70 SOLT members aren't required to have seen any of the shows or performances they're voting on; which means they often vote based on reputation. This means newcomers are automatically at a disadvantage. But more worrying is that fact that these SOLT members can decide they don’t agree with the panel and force something to be nominated that the legitimate judges have universally decided isn’t good enough.
The SOLT members are all theatre owners and producers, and therefore, with a few subtle arm-twists – and god knows what else (some of them even have two votes!)– ANYTHING – can get itself nominated. The judging panel are utterly powerless to stop this from happening.
A case in point this year is the ridiculous Dreamboats and Petticoats, which has laughably been nominated for best new musical. Universally slammed by the press, and by all accounts, the Olivier Judges, it has magically found itself with a nomination despite not even making the judges long list. The producer? Bill Kenwright; a renowned cheapskate, but not without influence within the world of West End Theatre.
The inclusion of Dreamboats in the list of nominations in my opinion makes a complete mockery of the awards, which should recognise excellence in British Theatre. If a cruddy show can fly a banner which says; “Olivier Award Nominee”, it undervalues everyone and everything legitimately nominated. If you have a panel of experts who are conscientiously watching every show, their informed collective views should be respected. In short, it shouldn’t be possible to buy an Olivier Award.
If any Olivier judges happen to be reading this blog, I trust you'll consider making an appropriate stand. I will be hugely proud of you and back you to the hilt if you do. I shall not undermine the importance of this message by writing anything else about what I’ve been up to today.
We discover on this spring-like day in 1660 that Pepys was a breeder of pigeons (probably for eating rather than carrying). We also discover that the pigeons were doing exactly what pigeons should do if they’re going to breed! Pepys is delighted.
It’s a bit of a day for all matters faunal as Pepys arrived back home to discover Elizabeth’s somewhat troublesome brother, Balty, had brought her a little black dog, which Pepys describes as "pretty". Without wishing to give spoilers to those of you who are following the progress of our hero with baited breath, this little dog goes on to inspire many entertaining diary entries. It seems to have been rather badly behaved, fond of pissing and shitting all over the house, and as a result caused many a row between Pepys and his wife, usually because the former was threatening to throw the creature out of a window!
Pepys ends his diary entry with a typically "warts and all" statement:
"Went to bed with my head not well by my too much drinking to-day, and I had a boil under my chin which troubled me cruelly."
And odd remark, because he doesn't purport to have been drinking any more than usual. Perhaps the wine he consumed had turned to vinegar, or perhaps he had an inkling that 350 years later, his beloved theatre industry would be discovered to be as corrupt as his beloved parliament... How little changes!