Theatre: Where Has the Passion Gone? ; Theatre Critics Are Deeply Divided about Their Role According to a New Book. Critic Turned Playwright Clare Bayley Calls Her Former Peers to Account
Bayley, Clare, The Independent (London, England)
IS A theatre critic's task to "convert people to the religion of theatre" or to act as a "consumer recommendation"? For British critics, the answer seems increasingly to be the latter. But whose side are critics really on? Is their ultimate responsibility to the theatre, to the readers, to their editors - or a mixture of all three?
These questions are raised in Who Calls the Shots on the London Stages? - a book of candid interviews with critics and practitioners by the Bulgarian critic Kalina Stefanova.
It is largely the fault of editors that criticism is becoming merely consumer recommendation - helped by star ratings replacing sustained analysis. It makes a serious theatre critic's job harder when there is pressure to produce headline-grabbing reviews - sneering condemnation or going for hype in the rush to spot "hot" talent. Reasoned criticism is considered automatically boring. But it is the critic's job to hold out for detailed responses to a complex art form. Critics themselves are complicit in this. When they belittle the form they live by, they ultimately humiliate themselves.
At bottom is the media mentality which believes that theatre is not as relevant as film, television or pop culture - or does not sell as many issues and has to justify its existence.
Depressingly, Stefanova's book reveals that some critics are buying into this mindset. The Evening Standard's Nick Curtis, now famous for his dismissive reviews, admits, "When I was younger I had a much stronger belief in theatre as being something potent, life- changing, and important with a capital `I'. I'm now no longer convinced that it is that."
And he's not the only one. So much for the religion of theatre... and we thought it was only Church of England vicars who lost their faith. But is it healthy - for all concerned - to continue to write about something one no longer believes in? Step aside for someone who enjoys it, rather than staying and souring it for everyone else.
The director and writer, David Farr, identifies a dichotomy between older and younger critics. "The older generation instinctively sees theatre as central to our culture," he says. "Younger critics won't talk about theatre as a serious art medium. They question it all the time." Indeed, it's …
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Publication information: Article title: Theatre: Where Has the Passion Gone? ; Theatre Critics Are Deeply Divided about Their Role According to a New Book. Critic Turned Playwright Clare Bayley Calls Her Former Peers to Account. Contributors: Bayley, Clare - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 2, 2000. Page number: 11. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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