Arab Today, arab today noises off is theatre better safe than sorry
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Noises off: Is theatre better safe than sorry

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Noises off: Is theatre better safe than sorry

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Strap yourselves in. Pop on a crash helmet. Theatre bloggers have reopened the debate about whether theatre is too safe, too often. Two months ago, various playwrights claimed London\'s theatres were risk-averse. Dan Rebellato returns to the theme, looking at The Recruiting Officer at the Donmar and the National\'s She Stoops to Conquer. He suggests it\'s the production, not just the play itself that is \"rather conservative\". Each production, he argues, emphasises \"light, speed and colour [and] a kind of production aesthetic that gave you no time to think, to reflect, even to savour. It was performance as distraction.\" But not everyone is ready for radicalism, suggests arts marketing blogger Chad Bauman. \"Popular programming,\" he writes, \"can serve as a gateway drug ushering in new audiences.\" Arguing that theatre seasons need variety, he defines safe programming in commercial terms. Hannah Silva, by contrast, thinks safe theatre is a turn-off: \"Risk. Audiences love it. Audiences don\'t know the rules. Because there aren\'t any.\" True conservatism, she suggests, involves playing by the rules, of conforming to standards and expectations. While Bauman advocates new work \"for the health of our industry\", Silva says it\'s more complicated than that. Her post is a direct address to literary directors and programming managers: \"Stop telling writers how to write … Stop censoring plays you don\'t understand … Don\'t dismiss a play because it doesn\'t look like a play on the page.\" George Hunka would doubtless agree. He picks up on Charles McNulty\'s recent LA Times article calling for writing with \"poetic density and grit\". For Hunka, all this is long gone. \"The product of the individual dramatist has become mere grist for the collective mill of administration, performer, designer, and audience,\" he writes, somewhat mournfully, \"and the individual dramatist is in no small part responsible for surrendering to this process.\" Not everyone would agree – but, he goes on, \"nobody likes a diagnosis of cancer, and denial is among the first stages of acceptance of such a finding.\" Ouch. Who, then, is championing the new and challenging? At his personal blog, Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout argues that \"the discovery and defence of the new is the most valuable thing that a critic can do\". He believes the critic\'s job is to celebrate the good wherever it exists, even though it\'s \"harder to praise than to pan. The reason for this is that the language of abuse is vastly more vivid than the language of praise.\" How better to champion something than to stick with it? Andrew Haydon, currently in residence with Forest Fringe at the Gate theatre, is the latest to consider \"embedded criticism\" – the idea that theatres invite critics to be part of the process. Haydon wants criticism to be more than a thumbs-up, thumbs-down consumer guide, which, in turn means getting closer to a show and its process. The counterargument is that it compromises a critic\'s duty of unbiased detachment and readers\' trust, but Haydon doesn\'t buy that. \"One\'s first duty [in any criticism] is to one\'s own humanity.\" Hannah Nicklin is more concerned with the basics. \"Contemporary performance is all but invisible on [Wikipedia],\" she points out. To that end, she\'s looking for people to populate Wikipedia with articles on key figures and groups in contemporary theatre and performance. \"Consider this outreach,\" she says.

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