Friday, 27 June 2014

Five More reasons that the Fringe is Crap

6: Lady Gaga is not performing
After the success of my previous post - quite clearly, all this hard work to develop new forms of critique could have been more productively spent on lists of My Little Pony  related stories - I am back with more Vile Bile. Thank you to Kate Stannard for suggesting these: but let's cut straight to the Hate!

1. Cost
It is not cheap. The escalating cost of theatre in the Fringe means that a good day out with three or four shows will cost a couple of ponies - you could get half a good meal at an Eric Clapton concert for that.

For a single show, it's not too bad - but why go to the Fringe to see one show? The whole point is to see tons of stuff, to compare and contrast. The price system plugs into that problem of different sorts of shows (community, student, professional) not being clearly delineated. Flinging a Pavarotti at an accomplished South African company doing a heist thriller with ironic cultural undertones (Silent Voice) is one thing, a couple of double nuggets in the bucket for The Creative Martyrs is a fair return. But splashing out a pinky and ending up at three versions Macbeth by a school companies is a liability.

2. Ethics
It's a bit rich for a critic to bang on about integrity - I refuse to go to shows if I have to pay - but Kate pointed out that some companies compromise their artistic integrity to get audiences. It is time for the bum story.

Once upon a time, there was a critic - we'll call him Margaret - who went to see a student production of Artaud-based antics. He ought to have known better, but he fancied finding out how Artaud, a real theatre wild-man, might translate into the modern idiom. 

On the whole, he found the sight of a woman in a naughty nurse outfit, a man dressed as a priest and another as a centurion pretty hilarious. Other audience members didn't, and walked out across the stage, shouting that Artaud would be turning in his grave. But the critic - let's call him SpinOza - stayed on.

There was this one bit where the naughty nurse laid down right in front of the critic - his name is Criticulous - and kicked her legs in the air, exposing her bum. The critic got a little distracted by this and cast his eyes upon the bottom.

His thoughts, which weren't really being held by the performance, pondered the ethics of the situation. Did the young performer recognise how she was exposing herself? Was she aware of the thin line between exploitation and challenging sexual normativity? Does an audience member have the right not to be presented with a bare bum, whether that bum is monstrous or attractive? It was a tough series of questions, and the critic got very involved in considering them.

Suddenly, he heard laughter from across the stage. He looked up, thinking that something funny was happening in the Artaud antics again. Sadly, the audience were pissing themselves at the sight of the critic staring at the actor's bum. 

Two stars.

3. Science
While this won't apply to every show that uses scientific theory as a theme or narrative, there is a tremendous amount of performance that mistakes a poor understanding of natural selection, or the Higgs Particle, as a signifier of intelligence. If I wanted to learn about relativity, I'd ask a physicist, not a playwright or actor.

This does imitate a Facebook trend: people who share 'I f-ing love science' memes. Science does enrich our lives, and a working knowledge of the correct meaning of 'theory and hypothesis,' 'experiment' and the difference between 'natural selection' and 'evolution' would help everyone (not least so that I don't mock you for not recognising the last entry). But vague gestures towards quantum theory in a version of The Antigone or hour long rambles about how cool technology is does not move theatre into new territory.

4. Three Weeks
It is inevitable that a critic will bemoan Three Weeks, the student review magazine. I used to do it myself - on one occasion, I took a photograph of some friends in a creche and tagged it The Three Weeks Editorial Team in Their Office. I was being a snide ass.

It is that sort of complaint - that Three Weeks or Broadway Baby aren't proper critics - that I hate. Of course they aren't proper critics: they are enthusiastic students trying to learn how to write criticism. If they get it wrong, so do the paid critics. If their grammar is a little idiosyncratic, it's not worse than wikipedia entries on The X-Men.

These reviews are a place where people can learn, and they provide a service to those companies who can't afford a PR by looking at everything indiscriminately. While anyone who thinks that a Three Weeks review is better than mine is wrong (in a relativistic way, that is), they do provide another subjective opinion on theatre, encouraging the debate, offering new voices and allowing students to experience the full horror of working in the industry.

5. Shakespeare
Like everyone else who runs out of ideas, I just go with Shakespeare. Again.

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