Much of Neilson's piece mirrors what I have been saying recently about the stultifying affect on the theatre of writers with literary pretentions (or as Neilson would have it - who allow ego to spill into their work) who imagine that theatre should be nothing more than a platform for their work. Often these days it is only those much denigrated west end musicals that are produced in full knowledge of the power of theatre as live performance and as spectacle, as Neilson says:
Much as the synopsis of We Will Rock You sounds abysmal, it's pulling in more punters a night than some "serious" shows attract in a week. There's a dangerously dismissive response to this uncomfortable truth among many of my fellow practitioners, but it's not hard to figure out why this might be. Musical theatre offers song and dance, of course; a certain unpretentiousness; a tangible sense of "liveness"; magic; and, most importantly, spectacle.
It is time the "serious" theatre learns this lesson. We have to give the audiences what they can't get anywhere else. Debate they can get in a newspaper. Reality - well, they can get that on TV. We can offer them "liveness", but few plays, or productions, take advantage of this. Too many screenplays masquerading as plays and an over-reliance on mixed media have imbued the theatre with a heaviness it's not best suited to. Some may argue that technology is the key to spectacle, but most theatres can't compete with the West End technologically. The spectacle we can offer is the spectacle of imagination in flight. I've heard audiences gasp at turns of plot, at a location conjured by actors, at the shock of a truth being spoken, at the audacity of a moment. There is nothing more magical and nothing - nothing - less boring.