Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday, 20 September 2008

I remember how, years ago, when I was writing theatre reviews, I would be so utterly passionate about the shows I saw. And then utterly fearless about putting my response into words: whether positive or damning.

Generally it was the negative reviews I would receive praise for.

I would always receive this praise rather guiltily.

And now, some 25 or so years later, I feel even more guilty still on the (mercifully rare) occasions someone comes up to me and says: “You reviewed a show I did once...”
Almost always they remember because I said something hurtful or unpleasant about their work. All those years ago.

And we never forget.

I simply can’t bear to be negative this way any more. Perhaps it’s guilt. But I’ve been incapable of writing this diary for the last week precisely because I saw a production I thought was terrible in just about every respect.

I haven’t wanted to say so; and I haven’t wanted to pass it over in silence.

There were actors suffering in it I value highly; and they did what they could in an utterly unsupported and undermined way.

And I wanted to say to the theatres involved: if this is really the best you can do, you should shut up shop and give yourselves the space and time to reflect on what it is you really should be doing.

Of course this is the question I am continually asking myself: what should I be doing? How can I best respond to what is happening?

And I am struggling to answer these questions in the script I am working on. With what feels like a conspicuous lack of success.

And the experience of seeing that production has left me feeling completely unsupported. Filled with a sense of discouragement and dismay.

But that’s not just about the theatre.

The headlines the last week have been dominated by the unfolding of a gargantuan financial crisis that has exposed the utter weakness of the current financial structures and left governments flailing about, helpless.

The US government has nationalised mortgage lending – implicitly recognising what it cannot say openly. That the Market is not fit to be trusted with the basic processes that shape people’s lives.

Its latest response is to pay back the bad housing debts that began the process. Effectively, telling financial institutions that they can escape the consequences of their own greed and folly.

Not unnaturally, said financial institutions are delighted by this.

But no-one, I suspect, is really reassured.

There is a sense that governments, like that one poor suffering theatre, are responding to a new situation in an old and inappropriate way.

And that is just so much more dangerous.
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