Theatre producers who turn critical brickbats into bouquets could soon face prosecution. From December 2007, ‘sharping' – or taking a critic's comments out of context so a damning review sounds like radiant praise - will become illegal under a new European Union directive. The new unfair commercial practices directive will make misleading the public by deliberately misquoting a review prosecutable by law. Judgement will be based on whether a distorted quote has influenced consumer behaviour, for example convincing a passing punter to buy a ticket because the theatre’s billboards are plastered with misrepresented superlatives. Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer, who is also drama section chairman Critics' Circle, told his newspaper that the problem was common and should only be dealt with on a local level. "It seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous that British theatre producers should be told what they can or can't do with quotes by an EU directive,” Spencer said. "We've had meetings about (selective quoting) and it's a bit of a running joke.” Our own critic Michael Coveney writes in his Whatsonstage.com blog that, while many critics would rejoice in having their “pearls of wisdom unmolested”, there is a certain justice in selective quoting. “All critics, myself included, spend most of their lives misrepresenting (in the view of the artists) original theatre work in print,” Coveney said. “Why should the critics feel themselves beyond such misrepresentation?” The EU directive is designed to impact all forms of publicity and marketing. To post your own thoughts on the matter, visit the Discussion Forum.