IS IT POSSIBLE to separate the form of a production from its content? Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss doesn’t think so. In the question-and-answer session after her address to the 2015 conference of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), she was asked whether she was guilty of reviewing a show’s political issue rather than the show itself.
Her reply to the New Orleans audience was succinct: “The content and the production are one. You don’t separate the meaning of the show from the style of the show.”
I think she’s right. As I wrote in my last blog:
You wouldn’t ask a critic to suspend their judgements about aesthetics or technical achievement, so why demand that they should deny their political perspective? I’m not convinced that’s even possible, but even if it was, to mute your political reaction would itself be a political act.
Other topics covered by Weiss include the problem of being remembered only for the controversies (she lists five of them) and the importance of editors being engaged in the arts. You can hear her full session here:
While I’m in an audio-visual mood, there are plenty more conversations with critics to be catching up with. This year at the Theatre Royal Winchester, a group of Young Critics have been privy to the insights of experienced critics at a series of masterclasses. So far, they’ve had visits from Lyn Gardner of the Guardian, Mark Shenton of the Stage, Megan Vaughan of Synonyms for Churlish, Tim Walker formerly of the Sunday Telegraph and several others. I’ll be there myself before long – as will the talented critics listed here.
You can listen to the best bits online, starting with this sequence of short podcasts featuring Jake Orr of A Younger Theatre and Lyn Gardner:
There is also loads of material you can catch up with from The Changing Face of Theatre Criticism in the Digital Age: A Colloquium at Brock University, St Catharines, Ontario in 2014, including this 14-minute collection of highlights:
Finally, here I am with Andrew Dickson talking about theatre criticism at a conference about Adapting, Performing & Reviewing Shakespearean Comedy in a European Context last summer: