'Build it up, then knock it down'
has long been the obsession of the British press, and The
Avengers stage play was certainly a victim to this practice.
Whether this was justified is open to interpretation and
debate, but the facts remain that the newspapers were unanimously
positive in the lead-in to the production and almost uniformly
scathing in their reviews – only the showbusiness journal, The
Stage and Television Today offered a wholly positive view on the
Perhaps there was a sizeable dollop of British optimism behind the
publicity features that had raised expectations too high? Maybe the
stage play failed to engage critics because it failed to live up to
the stylish and slick legacy of the successful television series?
Maybe they'd all just had unhappy love affairs? Maybe they were
absolutely right? Who knows...
The first mentions in the press
date back to April 1971, when producer John Mather was interviewed
briefly in a handful of newspapers. He talked up his new production as
one that was ambitious and that would "blast the British theatre into
the Seventies", before going on to say that he had the script ready
and that he would soon begin the "difficult task" of finding
experienced stage actors to play the principal roles. A month later,
Simon Oates had been cast as Steed and commented in the press that he
was finding his way around the character and that at first, "I was
very dubious about the bowler. I had the distinct feeling that if I
wore the thing in public, a chap might rush up and kiss me". Perish
Critical comment came thick and
fast after the show opened in London, with most of the British
national newspapers publishing reviews within days of the premiere.
They make for interesting, if mostly painful reading. Four are
presented below, along with a publicity piece from The Sun.
Click on the thumbnails below to
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