20 Questions with ….. Mark Shenton

Theatre critic  extraordinaire this week answers 20 questions


  1. What was your first reviewed show?

My first published review was of WHO KILLED “AGATHA” CHRISTIE? — a play I saw in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I grew up, when I was 14 — and won the main daily paper’s competition for best reader review for writing (over other adult competitors!)

  1. What is your favourite show you’ve seen (reviewed or for pleasure)?

Impossible to choose just one from everything I’ve seen! My favourite recent musical, however, on Broadway was NEXT TO NORMAL, which I saw ten times…. The play that changed my life, though, and is the one that turned me into who I am now, was seeing Terrence Rattigan’s THE DEEP BLUE SEA (again in Johannesburg as a teenager) — it affected me so deeply that I overnight became a theatre devotee. It remains one of my all-time favourite plays.

  1. And, what show would you loved to have written?


  1. Do you ever think I really don’t want to review this in case I don’t like it?

I try to approach everything with an open mind — but you inevitably dread a few of them! Sometimes you have a lovely surprise — I was full of trepidation, for instance, for MAMMA MIA! when it first opened — but I loved it! And still do!

  1. How did you end up being a theatre critic?

It’s something I realised early on was something I wanted to do professionally. But its a very small world — or at least it was in the pre-internet age — and breaking in was difficult. So I read law at University (to have something to fall back on!), but in fact did more reviewing and producing theatre there than law…. Then I worked for a West End advertising agency Dewynters, which handles West End and Broadway shows, looking after their publishing of souvenir brochures and theatre programmes; then became Editor of a listings company who supplied arts and TV listings material to national newspapers. I was writing freelance reviews and features wherever I could — my first professionally published feature was in PLAYS INTERNATIONAL magazine, for whom I wrote interviews for many years — and finally decided to go for it as a full-time arts journalist.

  1. Do you think there should be more regional productions?

The regional theatre is pretty buoyant — though it has suffered a lot of cuts in the last few years. But there’s plenty of good stuff being produced there. I just wish I could get to more of it!

  1. Do you prefer the West End or Broadway?

I love them both! Broadway wins in terms of ‘atmosphere’ — the sense that theatre is an ‘event’, and the buzz that permeates the theatre district around curtain up time, as everyone seems to be rushing to do the same thing, namely see a show. We don’t have that in London, as our theatres are much more spread out. But Broadway is also disastrously over-priced — and London is heading the same way — which is edging out regular theatregoers. So theatre lovers are forced to migrate beyond the West End and Broadway to other alternatives. No wonder places like the Almeida and Tricycle do so well now. (It helps that they also put on great shows).

  1. If you weren’t writing what would you be?

Possibly teaching — I do a bit of it at ArtsEd in west London now, and I love it!

  1. What advice would you give 16 year old Mark?

Relax — you’ll get where you want to be! And I have!

  1. What was the last stage show you saw and really enjoyed?

On my last trip to New York, I caught up again with three shows I’ve seen before — I love re-visiting shows! THE LION Is the best musical I saw all of last year in London or New York — an autobiographical one-man show written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer — which I saw first at the St James Studio three times last year, and have seen again now off-Broadway. I also loved revisiting Cush Jumbo’s marvellous one-woman show about her long-time admiration for Josephine Baker called JOSEPHINE AND I — again, I saw it first at the Bush in London in 2013, and now its at New York’s Public Theater. Finally, I also love EVERY BRILLIANT THING — a UK originated show but which I missed here and have now seen twice in New York; don’t miss it when it comes back home! (All three of these shows are coincidentally one-person shows — and I normally avoid them like the plague! Yet all three are magnificent!)

  1. Do you think you will have a go at writing fiction rather than articles?

Nope — I don’t think fiction is my bag. But I am starting to work on a non-fiction book.

Lets ask about a few favourites

  1. Favourite drink?

Coke Zero with lots of ice. (I don’t drink alcohol — and never have. I’ve never been drunk!)

  1. Favourite book?

I’ll have to have nine — the entire TALES OF THE CITY series of Armistead Maupin books.

  1. Favourite theatre?

I’m going to have to have five:

*West End: Wyndham’s — a perfect jewel box

* Subsidised: National Theatre

* Fringe: Union Theatre in Southwark

* Cabaret room: St James Studio

* Regional; Crucible, Sheffield

  1. Favourite song?

Corner of the Sky from Pippin

  1. Favourite music?

ClassicFM is my constant work companion — I don’t like music with lyrics to work to, as I tune into them otherwise — but my favourite music comes  of course from musicals.

  1. Favourite food?


  1. Favourite line from any show?

“The slotted spoon can catch the potato” — INTO THE WOODS

  1. If you could be anyone else for the day, who would it be?

My friend Ramin Karimloo — because then I’d see myself naked!

  1. Can you tell us what you will be up to next?

I’ve recently launched my personal website


and am co-founder of the new www.MyTheatreMates.com as well. I am working to develop both brands.


Thank you so much to Mark for answering 20 questions