Monday, September 17, 2007

Who needs reviews?

Blogs are changing theatre criticism because now critics are held accountable for their opinions. Only the other day my editor threatened to fire me because someone wrote a blog which said that one of my reviews was wrong.

This is a good thing, but not totally. For instance, in the past, arguments about George Bernard Shaw used to drag on for weeks. Now they're all over in minutes. Also, blogs make people write about things they haven't seen yet. How stupid is that?

Still, there's nothing like the printed word! Word counts make you write shorter and better! Blogs are unfocussed ramblings. Reviews are perfectly structured gems of prose.

Also, critics are uniquely equiped to see through all of the PR and marketing that surrounds plays. They do this by going to theatres on special nights set aside for them, where they are met by the play's publicist, handed a handy press pack put together by the marketing department and given free drinks at the interval which come from the play's marketing budget. How could an ordinary member of the public possibly see through the marketing, which, from the theatre's point of view, I am a part of?

In the end, proffesional critics live or die by their independence of mind and the ability to string a few sentences together. Knowing what the word "accountable" means is a bonus.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vernon God Little, Young Vic

Given recent events in Virginia, this may not seem the ideal time to be staging a show whose background is a high school massacre. (Incidentally, I apply the same logic to plays about the Iraq war. Oh, wait, hang on...)

In turning a first-person narrative into drama, Ronder (the adaptor) inevitably sacrifices some of the throwaway brilliance of Pierre's prose: this is the essence of theatre being different to books. No play can match such lines, saying of a bus-station oldster, "the skin of his face hangs down in pockets, like he has lead implants". No play.

Even if the structure, like the frankly perplexing grammatical construction of this sentence, is fragmented, Rufus Norris's production also captures the contrast between Texan materialism and the impoverished gaiety of the Mexico to which the hero flees. Imagine how much easier it would have been without all that nasty fragmentation though.

The acting is good.
The Globe tour has a fine Elizabethan ring to it

The Globe are doing a tour. Gosh.

I did a tour once. With Ken Loach! (KLANG!) and Dudley Moore! (KLANG!) and some guy who's a judge! (err, KLANG!)

Still, if they do it outside, what if it rains? I mean, how rubbish would that be?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Matter of Life and Death, Olivier

A Matter of Life and Death is an old film which was optimistic. Now it’s a new play which isn’t! Fascinating! And undynamic!

Where the film is clearly all lovey, the play is clearly all warry. In his heavenly trial, the protagonist is confronted by his war-victim father, the widows of the Coventry and Dresden bombings, and, somewhat tendentiously, by Shakespeare. The meaning is clear: war and Shakespeare will always triumph over private passions.

What prevents this pessimistic, death obsessed coda being bleak, is the way it’s full of life! There’s a calypso band, a ping-pong game and a sexy bit, as well as a Norwegian and a panorama of life on Waterloo Bridge. Some of this is virtuously delighting, but some of it is self-delighting virtuosity. Spot the difference.

If the production, with its constant use of clever-clever bicycles and too-clever-by-half hospital beds, sometimes seems self-consciously clever, at least there’s a good actor. And thank God someone’s finally been brave enough to stand up against war!