The Playgoer: Hytner vs the Critics: Round 2

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hytner vs the Critics: Round 2

The London theatre scene is still riled up over National Theatre AD Nicholas Hytner's shot across the bow earlier this week at the critical establishment for being "dead white males" biased against experimental work, especially by women.

Now some critics respond, over at the Guardian--one male (Michael Billington) one female (Lyn Gardner).

Along the way Gardner makes a very important point, put it in a concise and compelling way:

Critics come in as second strings, and many think that if they trawl the fringe for long enough, they may eventually end up as a first-string critic and never have to venture beyond the West End again. They forget that what is happening at the National begins outside of the mainstream, and that you can only do your job properly if you are seeing some of that work, because otherwise you never learn its vocabulary.
Just substitute "Broadway" for "West End" and "downtown" for "fringe" and you have a very salient lesson for critics and audiences alike in New York.

Gardner's wind-up to that passage, however, doesn't quite translate as easily. Will some of my UK readers (abroad and expats) please elucidate the following analogy?
The trouble with theatre criticism is that it is like the fagging system at Eton.
Now are we talking buggery, or cigarettes?


Aaron Riccio said...

Is there really enough material on Broadway alone to fill up a theater critic's schedule? I mean, if that's your only job, you've really got no excuse for not seeing at least five plays a week. It'd be nice to see reviews for them all (although I'm increasingly of the mind that a bash is unproductive), but at least it would fuel more of the Critic's Notebook-type writing that could spark discussions about theater again, or as Gardner says: "[doing] your job properly."

Rob Weinert-Kendt said...