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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

“Fringe theatre is too conventional.”

posted by on November 4 at 14:39 PM

In a two-second break from thinking about the election:

Remember the first two points of the Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves article?

They were “enough with the goddamned Shakespeare already” and “tell us something we don’t know” and were primarily aimed at fringe theaters.

At the Shitstorm forum the Rep hosted last week, several theater people vigorously denounced those two, accusing me of being a philistine and not having enough reverence for the classics. (Director George Mount—and founder of Wooden O, a fringe company dedicated to performing Shakespeare in parks—was particularly nettled, saying “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” In fact, his brand of aesthetic conservatism is fast asleep at the feet of giants.)

It’s refreshing to see my favorite arts section in the whole wide world, the Guardian’s, arguing the same points.

it would seem the fringe’s purpose is to provide a home for the terminally reactionary. The Finborough’s show is the sort of kitchen sink drama that died out everywhere else years ago, while The Courtyard’s Measure for Measure is the straightest reading of a Shakespeare I have seen in years: no “concept”, no “reading”, no attempt to make it relevant, no freighting with contemporary political significance - in short it looks like the director has just tried to “let the play speak for itself”.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but it is nevertheless baffling. The fringe grew up to provide space for new and experimental forms of work; theatre that could not be staged under the nose of the Lord Chamberlain; theatre that challenged the status quo; theatre that asked unpalatable questions of society; theatre that made aesthetic choices that outraged audiences - disquieting theatre; disruptive theatre.

Its receiving houses are all too often home to productions by directors seeking to showcase their mainstream talents and its producing houses play it safe with solid revivals of tried and tested classics.

Preach it, Guardian.

Read the whole thing here.

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Gee Brendan, would this have been authored by the same "Andrew Hayden" who only last week proclaimed:

"As Britain hurtles toward a depression, and everyone seems more and more miserable, no wonder Hamlet, and plays which reflect its themes, have started springing up everywhere. It has been suggested that as the recession deepens theatre will see more and more feel-good shows. If the success of these Hamlets is anything to go by, audiences don't want to go to the theatre to run away from their problems, but to stare down the heartache, the thousand natural shocks and the sea of troubles."?

Yeah, Shakespeare, such a HACK. Nobody wants to see that old drivel in these trying times...

Posted by COMTE | November 4, 2008 3:37 PM

What about the now generations-old convention of fringe theatre that seeks to "challenge" audiences by confronting them with incomprehensible, self-indulgent performance-for-its-own-sake bullshit that attempts to shame them for not understanding what the hell they're watching? I'd like to see somebody turn that convention on its head.

You know the kind of theatre I hate? Bad theatre. You know the kind I like? Good theatre.

Posted by flamingbanjo | November 4, 2008 3:39 PM

In the first place, I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do. Some of the good ones do, in a very slight way, but not in a way that’s fun to watch. And if any actor’s really good, you can always tell he knows he’s good, and that spoils it.

If an actor acts it out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he’s going to do something phony every minute.

Posted by Holden Caulfield | November 4, 2008 4:14 PM

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