Nights and boos with @johnnyfoxlondon

 Londonist head theatre critic JohnnyFox recently passed away after a short illness. Over the years we went to the theatre together. For me I was covering it for my own blog. For John it was covering it for countless online magazines and eventually Londonist.

We rarely took notes. There was one point when John tried to do that. But when he went to the bathroom, I wrote in his note pad, biscuits, milk, a tin of meat for the cat.

Instead, we would talk about the show on the way home. If we liked the show enough, we would record the banter on the Audioboo platform (as it was then called). While we assumed only my mother was listening, it was an opportunity  to explain why we liked something, without too many pauses or ums and errs.

We also travelled to Winchester and Poole to speak to young people starting out as journalists about how to make a living doing it. The point we made was that theatre journalism never made money but you should do it because you like to do it around your day job. And while everyone was video blogging, we felt they were “vlogging a dead horse”. Audio has a simplicity to it. And you don’t need to worry about whether the poor lighting looked like you were filming in a dungeon.

We also made the point that if you partner with someone it can be a lot of fun. As a selection of recordings over a ten year period suggest...

August 2009 - Too Close To The Sun

A musical based on the life of Ernest Hemingway which John reviewed as Ernie Gets Your Gun, had only a brief run. It almost fit in the so-bad-it’s-good category. A group of us went to the closing night to see it off. In the interval recording, we marvelled at how two members of the audience were eating hot food at the interval. They also thought they had tickets to something else.

June 2010 - Karen Akers 

Pizza on the Park at Hyde Park Corner is now a hotel. Still, one of our early post-show reviews was coming out of the venue talking about the cabaret singer Karen Akers. When we weren’t debating the merits of smoking or laughing at our own jokes, I think we enjoyed it.

December 2010 - On The Twentieth Century

One of the shows John was so familiar with that he was singing along to it. During the show. Luckily the other members of the audience weren’t too put off from it. Then again this was at the site of the former Union Theatre venue the seating was often spaced far apart so you could keep your distance.

January 2012 - Dick Whittington 

Wimbledon Panto is usually the best place to see a pantomime in London. This year it was with Dame Edna who stopped the show with her back catalogue of gags. But it was the first time I went with John to see a panto, and he was a bit surprised with my boisterous audience participation.

May 2013 - Blind Date

Our introduction to the seductive Rebecca Northan with her improvised show Blind Date where she picks a young man from the audience and works a 90-minute show out of it. The night we saw it, it worked so well that we couldn’t be too sure that it wasn’t scripted.

March 2014 - Pop Up Opera’s Docteur Miracle 

While taking a less direct walk back to the train station, we discussed the ingenuity of Pop Up Opera, which ran small scale interpretations of opera at unusual locations until the end of 2018. The discussion took place while navigating dog mess and cats eating mice in the dark.

July 2015 - Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 

 John let out a roar after the first line, “What’s the going rate for beaver?” This led to giggling for the next minute or so across the audience. As everyone started to have the same dirty thoughts. Although unlike the movie or other productions, the choreography wasn’t particularly butch. Even if it was particularly thrilling to watch.

November 2015 - Rotterdam

Normally we would walk down the street and do these recordings. But on this occasion, the traffic outside Theatre 503 was noisy. So we followed someone into a nearby apartment block as we could see some very comfy chairs in the lobby. Rotterdam would later go on to play the West End and travel to New York. Amongst all the errs and umms from me, I also struggled to stop laughing after using the word “flavour” to describe this lesbian comedy. Sitting opposite aJohn was making some rather unusual tongue gestures.

May 2016 - A Subject of Scandal And Concern 

 In one of our last audio recordings together, we talked about this small production at the Finborough. I even managed to get a dig at his growing twitter fights around the time. But these now look tame compared to the subsequent divisive social media spats that would erupt after June that year.

By the summer of 2016, the post show recordings stopped. The Audioboo platform changed just as our schedules changed. In the following years we would often be covering different shows on the same night. And other events got in the way. 

Collaborations continued on The As Yet Unnamed London Theatre podcast until 2018. John’s writing on theatre and travel can still be read for now at his websites:
Thanks for all the cheap laughs, John.

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