Friday, October 22, 2004

Bumped into theatre director Damian Cruden in the toilets last night and bade him hello. "It's not a good place to strike up a conversation," I said, "so I won't." As Damian unzipped himself at the urinal, I couldn't help but add, "But it's good to see you," as I skipped seatwards. Charles Hutchinson, stalwart of the critics' circle, appeared to be testing out the material he'd be clattering out on the keyboard later on me as we handed over our tickets. "I suppose you could say we're the crowd in trousers waiting to see A Cloud in Trousers," he quipped. The play itself, well, it's no better or worse than a lot of the stuff I've seen. But why does theatre have to be such a chore? I found myself clocking my watch 30 minutes in, and every ten minutes thereafter, pondering whether the sandwich shop I was heading to for supper would still be open at 10.30pm (it was). Where's the anger, excitement and vitality in contemporary writing? And why is a British audience having to watch a play that, allegory and a few contemporary nods aside, is about a Russian futurist poet? I've seen a few plays with words in about critics. I never think it's a wise move for writers to pop in lines like: "I met a critic once. At one of my plays. He was mad. Participating in a sublime experience and at the same time making notes. The doctors diagnosed schizophrenia. The man was a chicken who thought he could teach ducks to swim," however true it might be. Fine, don't invite critics then. And see what happens at the box office. We're all in the same game and all necessary parts of the same worn, tired machine. Write a brilliant piece of work and I'll tell the world about it for you. And has the writer met a critic? They don't come fishing us out at the end of the night - why would they? But yeah, I agree, critics are mad or, at best, eccentric (or, at worst, students who've never been to the theatre before). While I'm at it, how is it that novelists appear to be able to trade in the art of literary criticism without being lambasted or hung out to dry for their efforts? There was also a line that went something like, "A Cloud in Trousers. That's a metaphor," as if the audience needed it explaining (just in case, we even got a definition of what a metaphor is). On the plus side, the subject matter Volodya Mayakovsky was an interesting egg in his day. A punk poet, says the writer. But heck, they used to say that about Richie Edwards, did they not? But he's had his day - it was back in 1917. As the man said, "No need to reiterate mutual injuries, troubles and griefs." Almost parked the car in the rapidly rising River Ouse last night, as I trundled around trying to find a riverside space not occupied by a York resident. Plus point - the steak and cheese sandwich was very nice. Oh, then after filing the review overnight, I was greeted with "what review?" this morning when I asked if it had arrived safely. That was worth the hassle then. Hurrah, Julius Caesar tonight. F**k me am I getting weary.

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