Telegraph loses top critic

When I was writing for the Daily Telegraph in the 1990s, critics in all genres were exhorted to ‘be more like Charlie’.

Charles Spencer, the chief theatre critic, was cock of his walk. Shrewd, sharp, entertaining and without a scrap of pomp and circumstance, Charlie dispensed overnight accolades and spitballs with scant regard for rank and celebrity. His reviews counted more at the West End box-office than any of his ilk.

So the news that Charlie has taken early retirement at 59 because (he says) critics shouldn’t go on too long’ is a blow to theatreland and to criticism in general.

I have no idea what else lies behind his decision, but the digi-crazed, cost-slashing Telegraph has progressively downgraded its critical faculty over recent years and it would not surprise me if Charlie felt jaded by the steady drip-drip devaluation of intelligent journalism.

I wish him well.

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  • Now, that IS a loss. And Mr. Spence, why shouldn’t critics go on forever? If they are going doolally or have become bitter and twisted, someone editorial would surely manage to find a way to end a tenure. But while sharp, a seasoned critic has all the edge on a new one– as I remember when I was beginning as one — just because of the accrued experience that can add value to every observation.

    I hope his proffered reason does not mask anything more sinister to himself; I hope Mr. Lebrecht is right on this one. Strictures at the Telegraph may have found a back-breaking straw.

  • I continue to miss Richard Wigmore’s stylish and simulating pieces which used to be a delight to read. I’d welcome his return.

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