Monday, October 30, 2006

Have audiences forgotten how to think?

There are 2 kinds of audiences: gawping morons and frowning morons. And then there is the third kind, who is right, and is called Michael Billington.

Alan Bennett once went to see Complicite, and didn't like them when other people did. This proves that everyone else had decided that Complicite were great before the show. This proves that it's the fault of popular music, where people will listen to any old shit.

Like Alan Bennett, I agree with Alan Bennett. Look at the Globe. Often the groundlings actually appear to be enjoying the experience! If they really liked the theatre, they'd pay for the expensive seats like I do when I see the shows for free.

More proof: some people liked Kneehigh's Cymbeline! Even though they changed some of the words. Why? Because they're idiots. Like football fans. They came along to support the company and would do so blindly. Like football fans. Who often boo their team if they don't think they're performing. Stupid Kneehigh Orient fans.

Of course there are some people who are wrong in the other way, in that they refuse to surrender to the collective nature of theatre. In my opinion, surrendering to the collective nature of theatre means not using your mobile phone during the performance. More than that would be undue reverence.

Audiences sure have got dumb since shakespeare had hamlet describe the groundlings as "for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise".

Or for the really lazy:

The Reduced Micheal Billington Digest

I know nothing about Football. And you're all idiots!

Friday, October 27, 2006

How Long is Never?, Tricycle Theatre

There is a terrible thing happening in Darfur. This series of plays about Darfur highlights the terrible thing happening in Darfur. It also highlights theatre's mission to inform. So much so that I will spend much of the rest of this review demonstrating a profound, complacent, lazy and ultimately dangerous ignorance about the situation in Darfur.

The virtue of the plays is that they tell us about Darfur. And also about what we think about it. Jennifer Farmer's Words, Words, Words shows Kofi Annan struggling to complete a crossword clue to which the answer is "genocide". Best of all, Lynn Nottage's Give Again? satirically exposes the liberal dilemma of an American couple divided on what action to take. "What's worse than genocide?" asks one of them. "Maybe knowing it's happening and doing nothing." A humanitarian crisis neatly turned into a play about people a bit like me. Excellent.

Of course, the other way in which these plays are like me is in the unquestioning acceptance of genocide as a basic fact. Nevermind that the UN and Amnesty International have investigated what's going on and said it's not genocide. Nevermind that Jan Egeland, a man so craven towards the Khartoum regime that they've banned him from Darfur doesn't believe there is a genocide. Nevermind that someone like Conor Foley, an aid worker who deals with the kind of humanitarian crisis which is undoubtably occuring doesn't think there's a genocide occuring. Lets all shout genocide and feel good about ourselves.

The result is an engrossing evening that both heightens my misunderstanding of Darfur and outlines the moral and political dilemma it poses to a western theatre critic in the starkest possible terms.
Major Barbara, Orange Tree

Shaw is witty like a paddy and political like a kraut. Consequently, it's hard to understand why there hasn't been more of his work put on for his 150th anniversary. Notwithstanding the fact that he is one the most performed playwrights in the west end.

I had forgotten how wildean Major Barbarra is. And how Brechtian. Andrew Undershaft's insistence that poverty is the ultimate crime, and that society's first duty is to ensure that everyone is decently fed and housed, anticipates by a quarter century Brecht's great dictum in The Threepenny Opera: "Food comes first, then morals." Of course, Jesus anticipates this by 1900 years or so, and Marx by a good 50, but I think by and large we can attribute the origin of anti-poverty thinking to Shaw. You may argue that Brecht's "dictum" is not so much a dictum as a line from a play, spoken by a character and that it's meaning is radically different from the message espoused by Shaw's character, but frankly I'd be too busy wanking over a picture of myself reading a book (hardback, of social import) to hear.

The acting is good.

Even Shaw-haters would have to agree with my opinion, which is this one, that they have just read, and is mine.

Much of what happens is the same as in the film.
Krapp's Last Tape - Royal Court.

Pinter is in a wheelchair. This is the bleakest Krapp imaginable. Excellent.(4/5)
Bent, Trafalgar Studios

I first saw this play the first time, in 1979, when I liked it. Back then it was socially important because no one was talking about how Hitler killed homosexuals too. This play demands restraint, because it is serious. Unfortunately, this production is rather camp for my taste.

The Nazis are awful, but that is typical of this production, which gets accross the point of the play but misses the point of the play.
Waiting For Godot, New Ambassadors, London

The thing about Beckett is that it means whatever I want it to mean, and pertinently, I've seen this twice so my opinion is especially worthwhile this week. I've also recently been reading Don Quixote.

Yet what both actors poignantly express is the Terror of Isolation - so much so that at one point one of them pretends a boot is a baby! It is through details such as these that Beckett's play becomes a metaphor. A poignant one.

It is tempting to shoehorn in some politics. Pozzo is a capitalist. This isn't the point, and i've only mentioned it to point out that this isn't the point. Everything is political! Apart from this bit, which is about a swelling need for desperate companionship. Lucky delivers his monologue and then falls over, which rather proves my point.