'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 production.

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 the thought!

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.

Alan Hayes

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The Stage Show:
Introduction
Storyline
Scene Breakdown

Full Production Credits
Biographies
Press Coverage

Interview: Simon Oates
Tribute to Simon Oates

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