Devoted and Disgruntled June 2011

June 24, 2011

What are we going to do about theatre criticism? Lyn Gardner, critic for The Guardian and Jake Orr, a young and committed online communicator joined Phelim McDermott and members of Improbable together with a large group (60/70 people) to discuss and debate the role of the critic and criticism in the contemporary cultural landscape.

The format for discussion, as always at D@D Open Space events, was egalitarian and constructive – as Phelim said …conversations started aren’t over until they’re over…so they can go on way after the last chime of the evening’s meeting (into the following day, next week or next year).

I attended discussion gatherings (selected from a couple of dozen good choices): around how we critique disabled theatre or work by disabled artists honestly, what form critique beyond words might take and what relationship exists between the artist’s inner-critic and the voices of those outer critics to whom artists are also accountable.

Reflecting on the first discussion, I note that as with all groups of people who seek to have their voices heard by others, disabled artists have the right to receive a discerning response to their expression of experience, ideas and imaginings. As yet, discernment is not exactly widespread within the critical community or, at least, there is an issue to do with how well critics are able to articulate their responses to work by disabled artists. Indeed, the matter of where and how a disability manifests springs to mind – on the stage or in the review?

In the second discussion, we considered the notion of how the environment from which critique in the form of words emerges (e.g. the blog), can itself provide a framework for the critic to take risks – as does the artist in turn in their own milieu – so that they may contextualise critical proposition with other forms of expression (visual, poetic, musical, conceptual) that can help to identify a perspective – the critic’s own standpoint – more fully, fairly and creatively than the mere offering of a verbal point of view.

In the last discussion I atttended, one that had run through various ‘generations’ of thought across two hours or more, I was interested to consider how the inner-critic – if it’s working to build an understanding of what it is that one seeks to say as an artist rather sabbotage it – can help the artist to respond with equanimity, flexibility and bravery to the pronouncements of the outer-critic. It seems to be a yin-yan thing!

The evening’s event – on the longest day 2011 – was really most stimulating!


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