Coren v Berkoff in epic stage battle


Stage and film actor Steven Berkoff had responded to a claim by writer Giles Coren that theatre is "boring", a nightmare and attracts "dreary friends".

In a list of complaints Mr Coren – the son of Jewish humo u rist Alan Coren – referred to plays starting too late, audiences thinking of pizza and the "full tediousness of these old hams trying to inject life" into classic works.

He said he fidgeted at plays, whereas he could keep his attention on football or cricket matches "because those are actually exciting" and lavished praise on the cinema experience.

"If you want to make the theatre more comfortable," he wrote in his Saturday Times column, "get rid of the stage".

Mr Berkoff, a veteran Shakespearean actor who has adapted work including by Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe for the stage, expressed pity for Mr Coren.

In a letter published in The Times he accused the writer of repeating "an old canard.

"One should feel perhaps a little pity that his antennae are too shrive l led to pick up the special message that theatre emits," added Mr Berkoff. "His statement that in the cinema you can be fully transported needs examining. Cinema is the most unpalatable experience.

"The cinema turns [viewers] into passive morons deprived of will and personal responsibility."

It is not the first time Mr Berkoff has used The Times letters page to express displeasure at the writing of a Jewish columnist. Last July he said Daniel Finkelstein had made a "sad reduction" of Jewish ritual in a column on religious traditions.

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