What do they know of theatre who only theatre know?
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Sometimes body language says it all. At the press night of Penelope Skinner’s Eigengrau at the Bush last night, I was sitting opposite two of our most eminent critics, Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail and Tim Walker of the Sunday Telegraph. Because it was a traverse staging, I couldn’t help but notice that both these grey suits spent most of the play with their noses deep in the playtext. You have to admit, it’s a great image: two Oxbridge, public-school, Eng-Lit-besotted critics with eyes downcast, reading the play and ignoring the production which was going on in front of them! Of course, I can sympathise with them: the blow-job scene was pretty sad, and the self-mutilation bit excruciating. But you’d think they would have watched the rest! So, if you ever need a visual image of the nullity of so-called celebrity critics, just think of these two Tories with their heads bowed and eyes glued to the text!
“There’s nothing more terrifying than a teenager with something to say! You mark my words gel, you’ll be running this country! Even if you’re too pig ignorant to see it now!” (Glenda in Clara Brennan’s Spine)
Aleks Sierz is author of In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today (Faber, 2001), The Theatre of Martin Crimp (Methuen Drama, 2006), John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (Continuum, 2008), Rewriting the Nation: British Theatre Today (Methuen Drama, 2011) and Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s (Methuen Drama, 2012). He is editor of The Methuen Drama Book of 21st Century British Plays (2010) and co-editor (with Martin Middeke and Peter Paul Schnierer) of The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights (2011). He is a member of the UK Critics' Circle and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. A journalist, broadcaster and theatre critic at large, he is also Senior Research Fellow at Rose Bruford College and teaches postwar British theatre at the London branch of Boston University.