Fight! Fight! Fight! ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fight! Fight! Fight!

UPDATE: Encore Theatre Magazine follows up with editorial and more reaction from London's critical elite, who have lined up as one man to scoff at Hytner's criticism. Yes, says Theatre Worker, they have been in their jobs too long. "It wouldn’t matter if any of these three men [Charles Spencer, Michael Billington and Nick de Jongh] gave you the slightest impression that they had an alertness to what is new, that they were capable of giving themselves to a piece of theatre, that they yearned to be changed by it, to risk their profoundest thoughts and feelings. They don’t."

And Bad Boy Cote responds to the righteous indignation hurled his way.

____

Fans of schadenfreude should investigate the stoush enlivening the British theatre scene at the moment. Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, swung into the enemy's territory when he told the Times that London theatre critics are a bunch of "dead white males" who demonstrate misogynistic responses to the work of women - especially gay women. Guardian critic Michael Billington almost proved Hytner's thesis about DWM by proclaiming in irresistibly Dickensian language that Hytner's attack was "balderdash and piffle", and points out (justly, of course) in a robust defence that reports of his death are premature and that the picture is more complex than simple ideas of gender.

Not, when you actually look at these things, that gender is ever a simple issue. The reliably thoughtful Lyn Garner, also of the Guardian, says that Hytner has a point, but she thinks the women simply get out more because they do the "fringey" stuff and so understand that theatre is about more than West End openings. Unspoken, of course, is the understanding that this happens because the women are often the junior partners in the critical exercise.

I think Gardner is on the money here:

...I do think that Hytner is doing a terrific job in trying to drag the National into the 21st century and reflect the experiments in form and ways of working that are taking place in British theatre. Not all of these shows will be successful, but the National should be taking risks and so should we critics, because otherwise we are acting as gate-keepers keeping innovation out - rather than doing our job and helping theatre culture grow and change.

George Hunka at Superfluities agrees that the real problem is the question of aesthetic blinkers, rather than whether the critic is old or possesses a penis. He also brings up the rather puzzling NY blogtroversy about "anti-Christian" critics, currently raging around the ears of TONY theatre editor David Cote. Rat Sass, bless him, is maintaining the rage over Cote's more recent comment, in a review, that: "Of course, if artists (or scientists) could find out why some people can’t do without supernatural bigotry, the world would be a better place... religion is bad theater for stupid people". It's baffling that a supposedly impassioned defender of that primal anti-religionist Artaud should get so exercised about defending institutional Christianity, but there we are.

In fact, they're all enjoying themselves hugely. Except possibly David Cote.


19 comments:

Slay said...

Charles Spencer has a pretty good follow-up today, which includes stuff like this ...
Hytner, who is bald, middle-class, 50 years old and a man, clearly believes that theatre critics are a bunch of sexist old fogeys. It's true that I'm two years older than him, and my wife has often accused me of having, in that ghastly phrase, "unacceptable" attitudes when it comes to the division of household chores ...

It's at Telegraph.co.uk.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for that, Slay. Well, funny how these critics defending themselves do so in language which seems to prove Hytner's point. Spencer's supercilious tone would make any warm-blooded woman want to kick him. Well, me, anyway. What a tool.

nick said...

Thanks for your blessing and the link. Alas, our old days of debate are no more. I remember them with fondness, almost. I never once whined about the infamous tag team act that you and George have perfected. It was only the threat of censorship that ended the exchange for me.

Alison Croggon said...

My pleasure, Nick. I make no apology for elective affinities - it's how art cross-pollinates, after all, and in any case I differ with George as much as agree with him. And what threat of censorship?? Egad. I have always argued for and supported debate. With the proviso that it's civil, which really isn't that hard to manage. You can say anything you like - disagree with me hotly even - as long as you don't do the ad hominem thing, about me or anyone else, which is when I tend to get a bit miffed.

nick said...

Calling someone a fuckwit is not usually considered civil. And calling someone a troll is most definitely that ad hominem thing. But like I said before when I left, it’s your domain, not mine.

http://theatrenotes.blogspot.com/2007/01/orstrilia-day.html

Alison Croggon said...

Ah yes, I remember. Well, a quick refreshing of my memory leaves me completely unrepentant over my judgements there.

George Hunka said...

For what it's worth, I've been called much worse, and here I am, still standing.

nick said...

George, of course you’re still standing, you’re Andre, the Giant of theatre bloggers.

Alison, your judgment is not mine. That’s fine and good. When you feel you have the right to censure mine, that’s where I depart. My self-censuring mechanisms work as well as yours. Your rules on debate are enforced on whim. You calling me a troll is the epitome of the “ad hominem thing” you supposedly enforce. And we noticed that when you wrote about this poem and poet elsewhere, the only item you dropped was the appellation “fuckwit.” It was your bad on the civil discourse front. You set the tone of that debate, no one else.

Alison Croggon said...

Heigh ho my boy, this is unseemly. Calling a commenter on their behaviour is not ad hominem - I don't have a personal opinion about you. I just wish that if you decide to spam my comments, you'd say something interesting instead of misrepresenting what I am supposed to have said or done, which is always, in a trivial way, maddening. Misrepresentation is a routine habit of yours, as you might have noticed. At least two other bloggers have complained about it. As for the shock you seem to feel at mild profanity - what planet do you live on?

nick said...

Behavior? Yes, you do remind of that schoolmarm species of censure. As for misrepresentation. You misrepresent me just now, claiming I was “defending institutional Christianity” in my Daisey/Cote posts. I abhor institutional Christianity. It is the last thing I would ever defend. But I have been misrepresented many times by fuckwits (thank you for that mildly profane word), once more is of no consequence. Miffed by a little misrepresentation - what planet do you live on?

Max Ehrmann said...

Nick...

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Alison...

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Max for returning from the dead to bestow some grace here. Much appreciated amid the noise and haste of my day, which is presently accompanied by a 12 year old ukelele player...to whom I might just suggest the epithet on "silence".

nick said...

Yeah, thanks Max, for prompting my exit line.

"Where there is truth, there will be no peace. Where peace abides, you will find no truth."

Pilate in The Gospel According to the Son: A Novel by Norman Mailer

Alison Croggon said...

How strange, alas, are the streets of the city of pain,
where in the falseness, uproar becomes a powerful
silence, and out of the mould of the void outpours,
bragging its gilded noise, this bursting monument.
O, how an angel would trample their market of solace...


Rilke's Tenth Duino Elegy. Translated by AC, the famously profane schoolmarm

Casey B said...

Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that you drink.
Sometimes when you're alone
All you do is think.
I'm a cowboy.

- Jon Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead Or Alive"

Anonymous said...

Can I ask you Nick - who is "we"? Is there a group or do you intend it in the royal sense?

Ben.

nick said...

Ben Whoever-You-Think-You-Are,

Actually “we” were the very humble gathering of readers at Alison’s biased critique of a poem many months ago. Nothing close to royal about us, but we did notice that when she quoted her blog when on the subject at Sarsaparilla, it was verbatim minus only the appellation “fuckwit.”

Alison, I thought I was done here. But I saw Ben’s comment when I came to check your blogroll and I couldn’t resist. I’ve put a bogroll up at Rat Sass for first time. I am using a stat analysis to find referring sites, trying to reciprocate listings. Thanks for yours.

Readers from your site stay at mine on average for 4 minutes and 52 seconds. George’s readers stay 7 minutes and 13 seconds. Readers from another referring site stayed 16 minutes and 19 seconds. What’s this all say about content? I’m not sure, but it’s really strange to know this much about one’s reader.

Famously Profane Schoolmarm. That’s a keeper.

Alison Croggon said...

Nick, it's noticeable that you have effectively hijacked this thread from any real discussion about theatre criticism, which is where it started. That's what is really boring about this kind of "debate".

nick said...

I haven’t read your blog or commented here since you threatened the censure I cited. Only from the referrer reports at my site was I aware that “theatrenotes.blogspot.com” was linking to my recent blog post. So I came here to read what you had written about me.

Lo and behold. The Schoolmarm is telling a little fib about me. I abhor institutional Christianity but she is claiming I was defending it. Big deal. I could have left it alone. I knew it was bait.

I tried to address you with wit and humor here. The astute reader will see that. The rest are likely as staid as their host is. Goodbye, Alison, again.