Archive | June, 2017

Why I don’t write about theatre anymore

9 Jun

Everyone loves a rant, don’t they? So perhaps I should begin with a complaint about disorganized publicists who never had my name at the door, a whine about painful productions by hopeless incompetents, a whinge about competent productions by cynical CV-fillers, and a despairing howl about my inane colleagues who wrote only fluent cliche.

Unfortunately, I have no such rant in me. I’ve enjoyed writing about theatre and I have met some truly wonderful people.

But, before I explain why I no longer write about theatre, I’d like to explain why I began in the first place. Over the years, some people have responded as though there was something inappropriate about me doing so, suggesting it was either wrong or unwise for a working dramatist to comment on other dramatist’s work. But surely artists should be able to talk about Art? The moral discomfort seemed based on the assumption that if I wrote about theatre my aim must be to criticize. I don’t think this is the only way we can respond to Art.

Paul and Croc

I wrote about other artists’ theatre in the way I wished my own theatre was written about. I wrote about theatre in an attempt to acknowledge and appreciate the gift being given. Evaluation is the default position in most critical writing and, of course, it has its place. But I don’t write as a dramatist to be judged. I write to share.

As a playwright, I write to share my vision of Life. I use the theatrical form because it allows complexity and contradiction. (Dramatists who say they’re writing the Truth are simply substituting that word for an expression I believe more humble and honest.)

My vision of Life is joyful and hopeful – I hope. But if it were sad and miserable I would share it anyway, because you have to bring to the table what you have. (Occasionally as an artist I’ve come up against the view ‘Who are you to do that?’ and my response is ‘Who are you to not?’ Sharing is not arrogance. Deliberate isolation is.)

There are many qualities required in order to write about theatre well. One of them is time. I find I have increasingly less of that, and so I can no longer write about theatre, not when there are plays to write.

However, I have enormous admiration for those who do write about theatre (whether they’re driven by the need to evaluate or not). It’s not an easy task, as I’ve discovered. But I believe it is vital. If we don’t discuss our Art, it’s as though we are spitting Life in the face.

Paul Gilchrist

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