“Reading about theatre is a weirdly incomplete experience. Reading about other things is similarly incomplete but it doesn’t have to be the whole experience because if you read about it, you can get hold of it as well. Even with a poor representation of a picture – an artwork – you at least see what it looks like.”
– Andrew Haydon
This week we are taking a brief pause from our ‘Responsibility’ season. This is a bonus round from Berlin. Jana speaks with independent theatre critic, Andrew Haydon, about audiences, histories and European vs English theatre. This episode opens up the topics discussed on our show and examines them in a global context.
Andrew is one of the few British theatre critics who regularly travels around Europe to see new work, and who is conversant in contemporary European theatre (and not just what happens on the British Isles), approaching it with a distinctly British, but never parochial, perspective. In his writing for The Guardian, Time Out, Exeunt Magazine, and in his respected blog Postcards from the Gods, Andrew has long championed unusual work, difficult work, and has often argued that the British theatre is unnecessarily conservative in terms of form and interest.
“I always wonder what it would be like to get a hardcore German theatre theoretician in to watch a load of the really hardcore naturalistic productions that still exist in Britain but just tell them “it’s all a concept” and they are not allowed to go “oh, you’re just being British”. They have to believe that it’s a metaphor. How that would read? I’m sure there’s actually some really creative thinking if we didn’t all just go “urgh! It just looks like a room. It’s meant to look like that.” If we actually thought about it more creatively. There’s probably better ways we could understand what’s going on. There is craft in the way these things are put together, obviously. But craft and possibly not philosophy.”
– Andrew Haydon
Discussed in this episode:
‘Live art’ and its global history, stage metaphor, the white male default, new writing and authorship, national identity, what defines a ‘national theatre history’, the demographics of theatre goers, the importance of arts writing, the fallibility of the critic and can theatre ever just be bad?
“It is interesting where the history counts. If it’s a history of ‘English Theatre’, if you’ve got a director like Katie Mitchell (who I think did make a domestic production last year but made five or six bits of work elsewhere) does one try to include these because they’re a British director? Or do you include the infinite number of stagings of Martin Crimp, Denis Kelly and Simon Stephens’ plays? Do they count because they’re British playwrights? I don’t think it’s particularly futile to limit a theatre history to a national border.”
Enjoy and stay tuned: we have more exciting and intellectually rigorous conversations to come. Next fortnight we will return to the topic of Responsibility.