Many performing artists dislike critics. Despise critics. Detest critics. To paraphrase an old saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t even teach become critics.”
Confession time. I am a recovering critic. I used to drink at the “Critics Inn” several times a week for South London newspapers, back in the 1980′s. Sleep-deprived nights a-plenty, writing overnight copy.
Many critics I came across were solitary drinkers, attracting companions only as the critic’s host at an event about to be reviewed. But somehow I always had plenty of drinking companions, perhaps because I mixed criticism with my own performing career. In my experience, performers have a bigger thirst than critics. After all, performers take bigger risks. Actors are as good as their last performance. Critics, if they’re honest, are no better than the last performers they saw.
Fascinated by actors’ extreme reaction to critics, I wrote a play about it. Fallen Leaves has a central relationship between a critic-hating famous actress and a drama critic accused of euthanizing her playwright husband. But that still didn’t get the issue out of my system. So I decided to explore the world of criticism again.
Performing Solo. A play format for our times? Solo shows are on the increase in theatre calendars. If you haven’t seen one, you may feel that an evening of theatre where one actor plays all the parts might be difficult to pull off. But if the show is well written for the format, and the actor is good, you are in for a top-quality theatrical experience. That’s what you can expect from a Hunt and Laurence production like the two I saw recently. On top of the raw emotion and intimacy which only live theatre brings, a one-person show is uniquely personal. Solo acting thrives on eye-contact and directly addressing the audience. An audience member can feel like a solo observer.
Avatar: A James Cameron film. Yes, it’s spectacular and beautiful. Yes, the 3D-Fusion takes you right into the planet Pandora. Yes, there’s a strong, if predictable, story. Yes, the hero is an engaging wheelchair-bound war veteran who finds a way to walk and run and grow as a person. Yes number five is my answer to the question: “Is this a milestone film, a cultural quantum leap?”
The Shawshank Redemption. The perfect story to choose for filming is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, a novella by Stephen King, made into The Shawshank Redemption film in 1995. For me, Stephen King is a master story teller, whatever genre he chooses. His characters are deep, broad, multilayered, and engaging. The Shawshank Redemption story has a strong plot, with interesting twists on the familiar theme of prison life. The possible, but improbable ending, works beautifully in any medium, as so many readers or audience members are willing it to happen.