Tuesday, 24 May 2016

London Kills Me

Right, sunshine. You know I'm from London, right? And you know I have spent most of my life in Scotland? I'll tell you this for nothing: I resent the hell out of London. 

Have a read of this little number from Richard Jordan. It's not enough that they have a big picture of Michael Billington to illustrate an opinion piece on 'welcoming diverse criticism'. If you squint, you can see Billington's sell-by date on his forehead. 

Jordan is apparently all excited about these bloggers who are, depending on who you ask, clogging up arts journalism with their lack of 'correct background' (which probably means Oxbridge) or bringing fresh air to the stuffy corridors of critique. His arousal doesn't quite extend to actually knowing any of their names, so he refers to Lyn Gardner as having 'cornered the market' for fringe shows.

Sorry, mate, shes just The Guardian's  theatre critic who does this stuff. In Scotland, we've got Mary Brennan who knows her avant-garde from her performance art... then there's The Skinny's long term commitment to reviewing paths less travelled both in print and on-line, and there's me with 700 interviews with theatre-makers in the past year. And because 'fringe' directors don't have the PR people who help certain established performers climb up their own arse, they are heavily represented in the dramaturgy database.

Before going on to tell us what a 'good critic' is, Jordan throws in the usual moans about the decline of print journalism. Let me clear this up: print journalism is the victim of its own mediocrity. Publishers haven't even bothered to pay attention to the first lesson of the self-help snake-oil salesmen: if you keep doing the same things, you'll get the same results. Rather than invest in new forms of critique, newspapers churned out the same format of star ratings and consumer-guide assessments that was set in stone before Tynan and Hobson had their feuds. Its diminishing sphere of influence is not the result of bloggers stealing the space. People don't read newspapers for the same reason that they don't travel in biplanes.

But I agree with Jordan when he says

Every opinion is subjective; there is no need for an 'intellectual background' to express how you feel about something.

... some of the best criticism comes from those outside the industry,

although I struggle to imagine how those 'outside the industry' actually get press tickets, or whether they really impact on the process of theatre-making. His definition of a good critic isn't too bad, either, without being especially imaginative.

In fact, I am only annoyed by the headline - what's this 'I, for one' nonsense? It conjures up somebody in an old leather armchair, pontificating in his club. But I thought writing in a temper would be better, because the only time the theatre 'community' in London pays attention to us in our little parochial world is when we join in with their arguments. 

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