Saturday, 3 March 2012

Another apology

I don't read my own writing very often - not only is this pretty evident from the atrocious grammar, which a simple check would expose, but I find it as difficult as listening to my recorded voice. However, unless I have a look at this blog now and again, I doubt it will ever get any visits.

For various reasons, I am in a reflective mood - it might be the outbreak of post-herpetic neuralgia, or just the painful mistakes I made in another article last week. But I flicked over a few pieces, and picked up on two problems. If you haven't stopped reading yet, now might be a good time... unless you fancy joining my self-indulgent journey into critical doubt.

First stop: Love Hurts by Random Accomplice. About half of my review is concerned with the representation of mental illness. I castigate the author for giving a character an ill-defined mental illness (this is despite alluding to an ill-defined mental illness in my life. Well, critics are meant to be hypocrites. And the doctor hasn't told me what I have got, either).

It is a fairly consistent theme in my criticism: theatre often represents madness as a theatrical trope rather than a specific disorder. I hated The Wonderful World of Disassocia on the grounds that it didn't look like any breakdown I could recognise: Crazy Gary gets it for similar reasons.

Love Hurts is - as I do point out - a strong entry in Random Accomplice's compendium of effective theatre and a brave new direction for Johnny McKnight. If I had given it a star rating, it would have been a four. I am not sure that my review is undermined by my insistence that I need to know the clinical diagnosis of the protagonist. It mattered to me at the time.

But it is a quirk of my personality: I also get pissed off by lazy representations of religious belief, racial stereotyping, lazy humour, Coldplay albums, the lack of respect given to criticism. I know that I deliberately keep a blog so that I can indulge my obsessions without giving them the full weight of an "official review". Then I bang on about blogs being as valid as printed articles and say that criticism is about subjectivity.

Hopelessly confused, anyone?

Then I went into my assault on Terminus. Like with Disassocia, I was really out of the critical consensus with this. I was hating on a play that had been acclaimed across nations. And my first words?

It is everything I don't want theatre to be.

There's a bravery in taking such a bold stand, but it stands against one of my key definitions of what differentiates criticism from opinion. Instead of assessing a play on its own intentions, I was judging it against my desires. I'm not sure I can support myself on this one.

I tried the usual excuse: I was clearly revealing my bias. That works, as long as I don't expect the review to be taken seriously. And I know this isn't the first play that I have recognised as being outside of my interests. My usual tactic is to stay silent.

I want to find a justification for both of these reviews. Let me see...

My recent definition of a critic is a writer who assesses work against its own intention. I don't think either of my reviews were works of criticism, then. They were opinion.

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