Friday, 29 July 2011

Better Criticism Through Self Hatred


It's a timely reminder, in the run-up to the Fringe. Sometimes it is easy to forget why I continue to go to the theatre and refuse to buy a television. For my parents, throwing away my successful career as a Latin teacher to become a critic was senseless. Every time I queue up to get my brain-fixing medication prescription filled, I do wonder...

The cliché is that critics are failed artists. That isn’t true for me: I hate scripts too much to ever want to write one, and the only choreography I want to do with dancers would probably get me arrested if I put it between the proscenium arch. Criticism is a form of passive-aggression, though: it is my art, and like Woody Allen at the end of Annie Hall, I make it to repair the shit that my life has become.

The tiny things that hurt – the mentioned-in-passing boyfriend, the wound deep into my romantic soul, the job opportunity that disappears, the friend too drunk to talk, getting stopped by the police for jumping a stop sign, the days spent in an office when the Glasgow summer presents its one day of sunshine – all the little pieces of crap luck and miscommunication that add up to an imprecise melancholia. This fuels me as much as grave social injustice or the break-up of my once happy home. It keeps me going back to the theatre, hoping that this time there will be that moment of transcendence, that hope, that structural perfection that wipes away the flawed, incomprehensible reality that I inhabit.

And then to write about it, to lose myself in descending deeper into that maelstrom, to pretend that the stage is more real, more true, more authentic, clinging to the vague hope that there is a shape to the universe, that there is a God, and that in some way, some play will give me the secret code.

I’ve been told that my criticism denies the idea of a great meta-narrative to the universe. I think that means that I can’t see a big story behind everything.

I have said that my criticism isn’t a bunch of reviews, it’s a novel that can be read in any order. That means I am a pretentious arse.

When I was teaching, I told my pupils that art was a mirror in which we find ourselves. That means I really should not have worked in primary schools.

So getting mildly wounded, having to drag my battered emotions offstage while maintaining that Mr Darcy-meets-Jack Kerouac persona, pretending that I have to get the next train when all I am really doing to ending a conversation that makes me want to weep… that ought to get most of the previews I need to do done for the Fringe in the next two days.

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