May 24, 2007

Michael Billington being rather silly.

Just off to bed but happened to notice a train wreck of an article by Michael Billington on the Guardian Blog which I can only imagine was written by the animated paper-clip on microsoft word while he tottered off for the evening to read some extracts from Kenneth Tynan.
On a purely pragmatic level, Hytner's argument is absurd. It's like suggesting that papers should change their political editors every time a new government is elected or that sports writers should be swapped around whenever our national soccer or cricket teams change coaches.

No Michael, I'm afraid it's not at all like that. Both the examples you cite represent a transfer of personnel within a field that by no means changes the notions or conventions that govern that environment. Or, in other words, it doesn't matter how many England managers you go through football is still a game played by 11 men under a strict code of laws in which the goals (no pun intended) have remained the same since time immemorial. Now if one young scallyway was to one day pick up the ball and run with it, that might require a 'critic' who at least acknowledged (and maybe even supported) this transformation; or who at the very least was able to admit that any time this happened it wasn't simply cheating.

He then goes on to unfurl a banner proclaiming the importance of the indi... I mean his individual voice. Though I thought the problem in the first place was that his voice isn't sounding that individual these days. In fact, it's sounding remarkably similar to those of all the other daily critics for, though they may have different tastes and prose styles, they all share a fundamentally limited notion of what theatre can or should be - a notion that sees Billington dismiss Katie Mitchell's the waves as a 'sterile piece of theatre about theatre' that is nothing but a 'celebration of technical ingenuity' in much the same way as Nicholas De Jongh calls her work 'a dreadful form of directorial embellisment' and Spender states that all devised theatre is becoming 'more like an acrobatic display than a piece of real drama'.

And yet Billington has the gall to defend himself by arguing that 'much of the finest postwar criticism has run counter to prevailing views'.

Well yes. it has.

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