Saturday, June 02, 2007

On critics and criticism

My comments on the MTC's production of The Pillowman have generated a range of comments, one of which I'll reproduce here, as it generated what was going to be a short response, but which has grown to a length that I think is deserving of an entirely new post.

Anonymous said...

Valid comments Richard but a little perturbed that you can publicly review a show after only seeing half of it. If you paid for the ticket then I suppose, fair enough but if you were there on a freebie, I'd be inclined to be a little more careful in the way you attack it regardless of where your comments are posted.

2/6/07 14:34

Hello Anonymous 2/6/07, and thank you for helping spark not only a response to your comment, but helping me articulate what this blog is about, and why I do what I do. To whit:

Aside from the fact that I saw two-thirds of the production in question, not half, which I feel is more than enough to inform my intellectual and emotional response to the play; why should the issue of whether I paid for a ticket or not influence my detailing of that response?

If anything, I'd suggest (judging from the muted criticisms of works I've often seen in Melbourne's print media in comparison to the far more visceral comments I've overheared from the same critics upon leaving the theatre) that being on the comps list for a production is more likely to adversely influence an honest response than actually paying for a ticket might do. All I can do is be honest and analytical about my responses to whatever work I see.

And, finances aside, why shouldn't I comment on a play that evoked such a strong reaction in me?

Have you, dear Anonymous, never walked out of a film, switched off a TV program or abandoned a book partway through because it failed to engage you (for whatever reason)? Have you never advised friends against seeing/watching/reading the same show/book on the basis of said response?

You have? Then why should I not do the same on my blog, which is a cheerfully self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness embodiment of my own idiosyncratic life, dislikes and passions; and designed, primarily, as a means for me to communicate with a diverse range of friends and fellow bloggers?

What I do, whether it's on this blog or on 3RRR, I do as a volunteer, without financial recompense, because I believe in the importance and the relevence of art and its ability to touch us, and to reflect our flaws, merits and foibles. For that reason, I think it's important to analyse my reponse to any work of art that I see; partially as a record of my own life and experiences, and partly as a means of letting my friends know what I'd recommend they see and not see; while also recognising that they are free to make up their own minds, and that they can - and frequently do - disagree with me.

I don't make a habit of discussing shows that I haven't seen in full, but on the rare occasion that I am compelled to flee a work, then I shall certainly not shy away from chroniclling it here. I sincerely believe it would be dishonest of me not to present my views, openly and passionately, on The Pillowman or any other production, exhibition, newspaper article or observed incident that I've seen and responded to.

In essence, this blog is a personal diary that just happens to be published in the public domain. For that reason, I believe it is governed by rules outside those that apply to reviews published or broadcast in the media's mainstream. You can, of course, feel free to disagree; and if you do, I look forward to a long, engaging and well articulated response in the comments below.


Paul Martin said...

Personally, I rarely walk out of a film, though often tempted to do so. Just recently, I saw Mariposa Negra (Black Butterfuly) at the Spanish Film Festival and felt I could have walked out at any time after five minutes into the film (but didn't). There are a number of reasons why I don't generally walk out, but I won't bore you with them right now.

What I would like to express is that the walking out of a performance is not only valid but of itself a very important statement to make about one's perception of the performance. I average 200 films a year, but have only walked out of six. That list of six films is a fascinating list, for me at least. I'm also fascinated to hear from others what they have walked out on, and why.

Anonymous said...

I also very rarely walk out of things, but in the case of The Pillowman I did feel I'd be doing them a favour by staying. I could have stayed (I'm quite a patient person) but I didn't feel compelled to and I think if you expect to have someone's attention for three hours you should be producing something compelling.

This is coming from someone who loved all four or so hours of Einstein on the Beach BTW.

About the only other thing I can recall walking out of is Pulp Fiction. At some point the two of us turned to each other simultaneously and said ‘Shall we go?’ And I still think Tarantino is a complete wanker.