Saturday, 5 May 2018

Actually, I am Sorry

Further to my previous comments on the function of the review...

Having accepted that the function of the critic is to assess the extent to which a production achieves its intentions, I'd like to suggest a further possible purpose: the development of the discussion proposed by the production. This moves beyond the rather raw 'consumer report' into territory that takes theatre seriously as the starting point for debates about issues - whether aesthetic or political.

In this case, there is plenty of space for the critics to express their own subjectivity. The critique becomes an articulation of the critic's engagement with the ideas contained in a production. But let me cut out the fancy words and give an example.

Creditors (currently at the Lyceum) is a script that is generally accepted as important. A representative of late nineteenth century naturalism, it contains some nasty misogyny: at times, it reads like a handbook on how to control a woman. Stuart Laing's production isn't afraid to present this without apology: far from making him a misogynist, it asks some serious questions about what it means to accept a work's importance when it, frankly, expresses opinions that sound like the product of a Pick Up Artist's reflections on gender identity. Knowing his previous work, I am inclined to consider this an anti-misogynist production that asks the audience to question their own assumptions about gender relations.

It is possible that this was Strindberg's intention too, but I don't critique scripts, do I? I critique dramaturgy and productions. If I wanted to go into this, though, I might point to the biography of Strindberg and examine how he treated women in his life. Yeah, he was a misogynist shit. That'll do for the moment, and no amount of 'complicating' his philosophy is going to excuse that. 

Anyway, a critique of the production might want to ignore the detail of the dramaturgy and examine the meaning of the show. Instead of mentioning the performances - one of which does happen to be amazing - I'd talk about the attitudes of the production. Then I would say that I identify as a feminist, and that I find the behaviour of the men highly offensive. I might even conclude that in laying bare the misogyny of the text, Laing has challenged the status of Strindberg.

I don't really know this, though. It is my best guess, based on my personal experience as a theatre-goer.

It is based on how skill I think I am, basically.

My subjective opinion on the quality of Creditors is a bit irrelevant here: what matters is the continued conversation about the relationship between men and women. 

(Incidentally, this is why Lorna Irvine is the most important critic in Scotland. She can give a brilliant feminist analysis of anything and I'd suggest going to her blog Tempo House after you read this.)

I am nearly done, anyway. 

I believe that Creditors regards gender politics as an important topic. To pay respect to its intention, I am talking about gender politics. My review on The List is going to further that conversation. 

This doesn't mean that I am ignoring the production's terms of engagement. I am taking them seriously. I can probably do my 'conversation extension' routine while performing a classic bit of consumer reporting. 

By the way, I am writing this so that people can take me to task when I fail. I'd like to be taken seriously too, even if I am a shambles of a human being and regularly mess up. 

No comments :

Post a Comment