Posts tagged ‘criticism’
THE BULL, THE MOON AND THE CORONET OF STARS
presented by Merrigong Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company and Hothouse Theatre, April, 2013
Previews are special. The uncertainty, the danger, the risk that’s unique to any other performance, as artists and performers hand over their careful creations to an audience blind, like first-time lovers. Things go wrong. The creators’ anxiety is at its peak – which as the work is tested, moment by moment to win or fail – exuding a palpable crackling energy that only comes with a rare blend of sheer uncertainty and the courage of letting go. We have referred to this phenomena before in response to another intimate production at Griffin bearing a mix of magic, mythological and contemporary motifs. It is especially fraught in first-performances of a new play. Any new play is a confronting thing to perform, let alone one as touching and personal as this. It is known. Paraphrasing from the program notes: Van Badham conveys a great deal of her own heartbreak, hope and fear into the writing, something acknowledged by Lee Lewis that we are “deeply indebted to her” for it. Indeed.
That debt must extend as well, to Lewis for her work in translating it to the stage, and to the performers who countenance such evocative and cathartic material with their craft. At times vivid, direct, erotic, ridiculous, insouciant, tragically naive or hideously proud – always committed and yet somehow slightly one-step-removed from the text. A tricky balance that accedes to the paradoxes of the text that are simultaneously ancient tales and very much the here-and now. The echoes of Theseus and Ariadne into our lives today, and the threads of action-consequence that travel into the labyrinth of milennia past. How much of our own anxiety and pain are a part of this cycle of mythologising men (or women) into heroes, from presupposing an inevitability of love or lust or loss? Badham’s script portrays an acceptance of culpability for personal distress, owning it, laughing at it, unequivocally sharing it – with a sophisticated ear for irony and trademark wit, she manages to fashion the Myth of the Minotaur (referenced in the title of the play) into her own story, now subverting the hero-figure, now recognising the allure. This is more than merely a modernised adaptation of myth in the traditional mode of Anouilh (or even TS Eliot’s The Cocktail Party), as the epic is embedded to the tale in equal measure as it is historically removed. Altogether a different process and form to what we are accustomed to in the recent glut of adaptations. But perhaps that is an issue for another day.
The innate paradoxes are also apparent in the staging. From the opening seconds there’s a nod and a wink to the oral traditions of the lyric poet #notaeuphemism – as the tale is writ like a novella and much of it spoken in past tense. This allows for a concurrent distance and immediacy of the action, both drawing us in and keeping us at bay. This duality of form is a very tricky business to make work and often fails in the hands of lesser performers but these two manage to keep us sublimely in-the-moment despite the overarching and constant reminders that yes, we are watching a play. Yes, it’s a tale we all know, and yet we don’t know. Yes it’s a fable of modern horror, yet it’s imbued in the conventions of romantic comedy as well. Yes, it’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, yet devastatingly honest. But most of all, simply “Yes”.
I happened upon this excellent piece from Clive James in The Atlantic today; looking at the work of essayist Dwight MacDonald, examining his flair for language on a granular level. Fascinating for anyone with an interest in just how high this quasi-artform can get in the hands of writers at their best. It charts the shift in the role of the critic and the gradual freedoms in formal and colloquial language in criticism that we most probably take for granted in the digital age. But this is how it began. Well worth a looksee.
‘Art with a capital A’ gives mainstream critics the kind of creamed jeans you read about in one of those magazines. Mention folk-art and watch them glaze over, thinking of leather stitching, basket weaving or (at best) those ironic life size paddle-pop-stick figures devised by Marge Simpson. Stuff that belongs at a market stall, not an art gallery, right? Leave Real Art to those who know.
The uneasy shift toward economic caution displayed by Variety Magazine this week caused a few ripples. Sacking two full-time critics in favour of freelance fares writers a two-edged knife, as an exercise in cost-cutting it’s cynical; on the other hand it creates more opportunity for, well – freelance writers. But as a trend, overall it’s not that good for anyone.
in the face of marked media indifference to a vibrant arts scene this tiny chink of light we call 5thwall is born – to bring back proper arts discussion unhindered by marketing interests and call to account the insipid cultural gatekeeping of the media at large.