In today's Age, Peter Craven writes a sober and sensible analysis of this week's excitement, namely Julian Meyrick's attack on Cameron Woodhead's and my reviews of The Birthday Party. (Cameron's, sadly, is not online). In the process, he makes some good points about critical writing in general. This is particularly justly said:
Too often criticism in Australia has been characterised by a sugar-and-water or sugar-and-lemon approach, where the critic is afraid of frankness even when she is unimpressed. In contrast with this, both Woodhead and Croggon have the virtue of being fearless critics. Fearlessness is no guarantee of accuracy but it’s one kind of safeguard against the most obvious form of dishonesty. It is not the critics’ business to fudge their reaction or to mess about mediating the audience’s potential response. The critic is not there to review on behalf of the audience. The critic is the audience because he can have no opinion but his own...
Candour and eloquence are no guarantees of right judgment but they do guard against various kinds of falseness, including the falseness that comes from caring too much about the feelings of the frogs in the pond to say that it’s contaminated.
There’s also the plain fact that negative criticism is the logical corollary of its opposite. Only if you have the right to say that something is rubbish do you have the right to say that it’s a masterpiece.
Update: David Mence weighs in on the Captain's B'log with a commentary on the "theatre wars".