The Playgoer: the critics' role?

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

the critics' role?

The next big newsmaking event in the Rachel Corrie story will probably be the play's London re-opening in the West End on March 28. (Unless that's a first preview with press night shortly following.) It will be interesting to see if someone like Ben Brantley makes the trip to "see what all the fuss was about." I can foresee a sorry scenario in which Brantley (or whoever) gives a big shrug at it, thus vindicating Nicola and his defenders, at which the story on these shores would probably recede forever.

On the other hand if a major US critic raves, then that might renew the question of what went wrong at NYTW?

Meanwhile, though, something might be gleaned from reading all the many (mostly thumbs up)reviews from the earlier London openings (first Royal Court Upstairs in April, '05, then "Downstairs" seven months later). The Royal Court's website actually does something unheard of for a US press office--print all the reviews, not just the good ones. Ok, not all, maybe but at least a decent range--i.e. not only a selection of "better than Cats!" quotes. Worth checking out, for those wanting to learn more about the play itself. Reading a wide range of reviews, of course, gives one that parallax effect of sensing truth somewhere between all the individual opinions. (Michael Billington's review, cited here before, is also at the RC site here.)

One sample of a strikingly balanced response is Charles Spencer's in the Daily Telegraph. In light of Jim Nicola's stated anxiety over how to handle disagreement, listen to Spencer's freakishly mature approach:

As she describes the suffering of the Palestinians, and their Ghandian resistance, she ducks the question of suicide bombers and the carnage they have wreaked on entirely innocent Israelis. At times in this performance, one longs for calmer and more informed viewpoints than can be provided by a 23-year-old who has only been in Gaza for a few weeks.

But quarrelling with Corrie's occasionally glib convictions, even as you admire her courage, lends the show dramatic tension, and forces you to try to tidy up your own muddled thinking on this vexed subject.

Spoken like a true Artistic Director. Too bad he's a critic!

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