Jan 13, 2008

The Tedious Hour

For a truly disturbing experience this weekend you needn't look any further than AA Gill's interview with David Hare in the Sunday Times today.

Apparently David Hare asked for AA Gill specifically - 'I'm only doing one piece of publicity for the play, so I thought it might as well be The Sunday Times, and it should be you.' In a staggeringly unconvincing display of the modesty he is famed for failing to possess, AA Gill claims to assume this is because Hare will consider him a 'soft touch'. It seems more likely however that both believe Hare was demanding a journalist of the imagined standard that he believed he deserved, as he begins with mundane and predictable side-swipe at The Critics, his main criticism being that they don't talk enough about David Hare any more - AA Gill to the rescue.

As part of his ongoing crusade to prove that AA Gill is better than all of theatre, AA Gill has taken this opportunity to attempt to best David Hare, an icon of what Gill sees as the theatre establishment and a man almost as pompous as he is. And so Gill ends every quotation from Hare with a snide rejoinder and finishes with a sneering affirmation of the fact that (like much of Hare's drama) when you are the one doing the writing, you can always come out looking cleverest. AA Gill must have poured himself a large glass of expensive but difficult wine and given himself a firm pat on the back when he finally emailed this of to the editor - another job well done, another mountain conquered.

In reality though, the whole thing comes across far more like too bald men fighting over an aphorism - and despite his belief in the importance of entertaining, the funniest and most insightful things Gill can muster are quotes from Stephen Fry and Michael Gambon, gentlemen who you can be sure would never feel the need to indulge in such an embarassing display of smug dick measuring.

The whole sad affair feels rather like rubber necking a car accident with egos. You end up swinging to and fro as to what's worse - Hare's tired theatrical binaries ("There are two sorts of playwright: those that use events and the real world, and those that just write out of their head" - so where do Kane/Crimp/Barker fit into this facile dichotomy?) and Gill's equally brainless put downs ("Theatre director is a new profession and, with a few exceptions, the ones we've got at the moment are pretty desperate."). Apparently the two are friends - the long nights of cigars on the veranda must absolutely fly by...

So where to next for the self-designated saviour of British Theatre. Perhaps AA Gill to direct a West End Revival of George Bernard Shaw? AA Gill to chair a live primetime debate on the future of theatre on BBC4?

I've heard it rumored that Arts Council England might need a spot of restructuring - anyone have a number for the Sunday Times?


David Eldridge said...

That has to be the strangest plug for a show I've ever seen.

Sorry we seem to have been at loggerheads of late Andy. I'm sure we have much more in common than we have between us.

Best DE

Sean said...

'There are two sorts of playwright: those that use events and the real world, and those that just write out of their head'

That so annoyed me I nearly tore up the newspaper, absolute bullshit. Surely every playwright and writer takes real life to a certain extent and then fits their vision into it, or the other way round. 'Using events and the real world' only means something particularly different in verbatim theatre; otherwise Penhall, Shaw, Shakespeare and Kane all used the real world and their imaginations, you cant have one without the other. Nielsen to Beckett are all about the real world, us, our lives, people, but in different ways. I think that Sir David is so smug and predictable, it is hard to imagine that he was once controversial.

Andrew Field said...

Thanks David,

I absolutely agree. And whether we are at loggerheads or not I always find you a passionate advocate of interesting theatre and there can never be enough of those around.

Good to have you back Sean! I was wondering where you'd disappeared to for a while there.