A London theatre is in trouble with Westminster trading standards officers after it quoted selectively from a generally negative review of a play it was staging and made it sound positive.

Wyndham’s Theatre, in its promotion of a flopped theatrical production of The Shawshank Redemption used a quote from a review by critic Charles Spencer which stated that the film was “a superbly gripping, genuinely uplifting prison drama”, and opined that “in almost every respect the stage version is inferior to the movie”. Wyndham’s only used the description of the film, implying that it was what the critic had said about the play, something that Spencer, when he saw it, described as “the dishonesty of its advertising” in a piece for the Daily Telegraph. This is a view supported by trading standards officers who point out that a breach of the Unfair Consumer Practices Directive, which became law in Britain last year, is punishable by an unlimited fine, or a maximum two-year custodial sentence.

Serious stuff. And what seems to be more honest advertising can be seen in some of the well-written and thought-provoking pieces contributed by Spencer to the same Daily Telegraph in which he justifiably complained about the dishonest variety. Here there are references to specific brands of cola, doughnuts and popcorn, which could make cynics wonder if product placement has found its way into impartial journalism. We should all be told.

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