Monday, July 20, 2009

Touché.

Michael Billington on theater criticism, from his book One Night Stands: A Critic's View of Modern British Theatre:

“On the whole, I believe critics are born, not made: possibly because of some temperamental deficiency or innate shyness, many of us discover at an early age that we prefer to be among the watchers than the watched... Critics are always accused of being failed actors, dramatists or directors; it's nearer the truth to say that we find our emotional energies released by appraising the work of others.

“What exactly gives one the right to criticise? The short answer is: absolutely nothing. You can get a degree in Drama at various universities... but there are no diplomas licensing you to practice. Rightly so: criticism is not comparable to computing or dentistry. In the end, you earn the right to be a critic by the passion, commitment, moral zeal and verbal facility you bring to the job.

“Criticism, to me, is not the last word: simply part of a permanent debate about the nature of the ideal theatre.

“Just how close should we get to the practitioners? I suppose there are two extreme answers to the question. One is to see the critic as the public's champion, who should refuse to be contaminated by contact with the profession he or she is writing about. The other is to say we're all in the same business and that it's therefore OK to mingle freely with people outside office hours.

“My own course is to steer a prudent middle way. I've no wish, even if I were asked, to attend theatre parties, frequent rehearsals or sup late night with the stars... Bedding down with the people you write about is the shortest way to professional castration. On the other hand, it's useful occasionally to talk to directors of theatres about artistic policy or theatrical economics.

“In short, I see the critic neither as totally detached outsider nor as hob-nobbing insider, neither as man from Mars nor stage-door Johnny: more as a permanent occupant of a Pinteresque no-man's-land always in danger of getting caught in enemy cross-fire.”


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

“Just how close should we get to the practitioners? I suppose there are two extreme answers to the question. One is to see the critic as the public's champion, who should refuse to be contaminated by contact with the profession he or she is writing about. The other is to say we're all in the same business and that it's therefore OK to mingle freely with people outside office hours. --> well, critics here have to take a stand kung anong critic ba sila....hindi puedeng namamangka sa dalawang opposite na views. pag friends nila ang nasa play, type 2 critic, pero pag hindi type 1...critics should just take a stand, and klaro dapat ang yardstick nila.

Anonymous said...

“What exactly gives one the right to criticise? The short answer is: absolutely nothing. You can get a degree in Drama at various universities... but there are no diplomas licensing you to practice. Rightly so: criticism is not comparable to computing or dentistry. In the end, you earn the right to be a critic by the passion, commitment, moral zeal and verbal facility you bring to the job. ----> i do agree. pero dapat correct english ha pag english ang criticism...

beektur said...

i think the most critical skill of a critic (o ha) is the ability to keep distance: from the works, from the artists, even from his personal biases and his personal politics and philosophy. it is easy to string words together and quote another writer or two -- articulation can be learned. but to see the work/performance/output in a manner that the rest can't -- or won't -- and be able to stand with that against forged relationships with the practitioners and their audience, against one's beliefs -- takes character, not skill. and that what's lacking in most of the so-called critics nowadays. you, my friend, don't only have character. you have a full cast of them. :)

i have just watched the worst possible film in cinemalaya and right next two me are two of the friends of the director (as they themselves spilled in their endless chatter during the movie). one introduced himself later as another "filmaker" (kodak? fuji? minolta?), the other a blogger slash critic slash masteral student. the slash guy said: di ko na ito i rereview at magagalit si paolo. yun lang pow.

Anonymous said...

iyun bang mga critics who invite actors for coffee to "discuss" the play kasali dito? :)

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