Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Hello Rupert! Why do you think you are the Queen?

Y'all know how I loves me some generalisation, so thank you Andrew Haydon for bringing this cheeky whopper to my attention. 

Sure, it's from The Telegraph, so I can't be expected to agree with Rupert C (but he sure is cute). It kinda feels upside down to me, that coming at a play with the assumption that 'updating' is a bad idea. But he goes on to give specific examples of how Man and Superman sucks a big one because of the interpretation.

Imma go ahead and say 'fair play': anyone who avoids the whole 'plays have universal values' spiel is alright by me. And I never got on so well with JB Shaw, anyway. He was interested in the immediacy of his plays, not their continued relevance. He wanted social change, and he sorta got it. The irrelevance mentioned here is the consequence of campaigning JBS would've loved.

But here's where I get kinda pissed.

So, I'd like a few examples of Julius Caesar as commentary on totalitarianism from the 1920s, but okay. It's the assumption that it is 'fashionable orthodoxy... patronises it audience...craven anxiety' behind it all. 

Y'see, what Rupert's doing is taking one example of updating and using it to weave a vision of contemporary British theatre - a world of patronising, paranoid creators, desperate to be down with the kids.

Here's some more...

This sort of thinking is confined to the theatre: television almost invariably adheres to the original period... and although classics have occasionally been re-framed for the cinema (one thinks of the brilliant Clueless, so imaginatively drawn from Jane Austen’s Emma), the movies have become ever more meticulous in their recreation of the past – Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner being two recent outstanding examples.

Ah. There it is. The word that brings out my inner knife-fighter. 'One thinks,' does one? It's the use of 'one' that reveals a critic's self-image. He's sitting in a leather-bound armchair, surrounded by books he has no need to read, darling, because he just knows, off the top of his head, that what he says is correct. 'One' makes his readers complicit in his vanity, obscuring the subjectivity of opinion, making his opinion into 'a fact readily accepted by all reasonable people.'

It's a shame, because this bit makes a good point.

Significantly, it is when confronted with opera, the least naturalistic of art forms, that directors become almost hysterically insistent on nowness, however absurd that leaves fundamental premises of the story. Put La Bohème into the era of the Welfare State and it is inconceivable that Mimi would have been denied hospital care for her terminal illness; take Le Nozze di Figaro beyond the 18th century and the idea on which the opera hinges – the Count pulling rank to justify taking Susanna’s virginity – falls apart; make La Traviata’s heroine Violetta a Tatler party-girl and the poignancy of her self-sacrifice has no moral foundation.

That's enough from me: I am going to find a brick to wrap this blog-post on and throw it through the stained-glassed windows of The Telegraph's Art Castle, metaphorically. I suppose I could conclude that this is exactly what criticism should not be, but I can  never be that dogmatic. He makes some good points - which I'll return to when I get over my temper - about relevance, and spoils it with pomposity and weight of learning (overdoing the examples, much?). But it triggered a debate, so I'll let him live. 

Encouraging discussion and expressing compassion for the foolish: isn't that a heart-warming message about the nature of criticism?

No comments :

Post a Comment