Review: The Author

October 5, 2009

The Author

The Author

When does the spectator become the spectated?

Tim Crouch’s new play at the Royal Court Theatre is possibly more about the spectator than that of the play itself. Or perhaps the act of spectating is what the play is about. A confusing matter nonetheless, where an explanation is needed.

There is no stage for The Author, instead two tiers of seating banks face each other, and thus the simple idea behind one of the key themes of the play is played out. You sit, as an audience member, facing the audience. A strange concept to attempt to grasp. Yet from the very moment you sit down and suddenly realise that you have no choice but to look at those opposite you, a strange event occur. You start to spectate upon the spectators.

A friendly gay couple flirted opposite me, while a man saved a space for his friend using his jumper. Another young man looked at himself in a compact mirror chattering excitedly with his female friend. It was hard to define at which point the performance had begun, was any of the above part of the performance? Then a slight change shifted, when a single man began talking excitedly to anyone and everyone around him, tapping them on their shoulders to speak with them. Ah ha, I thought, it has begun.

Spectating on the Spectator

Spectating on the Spectator

The play itself is clever, there is no doubt about it. It is charming, witty, and heart warming, yet equally disturbing. It’s a complex piece, full of multiple layers of meaning. Crouch has managed to interweave the spectator into the heart of the drama itself. At first there is nervousness as anyone and everyone within the audience could be called upon to answer questions, to be spoken to, or just for a moment have a whole seating bank stare at them as they pretend to ignore the very matter of the play itself.

The interspersed music allows for light relief within the piece. There is something daunting about public speaking when you only came to spectate. The music starts and everyone turns to their respected friends, talk, laugh and relax a little. The music stops, and we are back to watching once more.

What is clever about this piece is just how perfect Crouch has managed to judge audiences. He knows how to pass them from emotion to emotion, he understands the relationship between the audience and the subject matter. He brings them straight into the action, and then just when you trust the work, he alienates us all. Do we trust a writer/director who reels us in and then so easily discards us? It’s a hard question to answer, but for the most part, Crouch has played the part well.

The play/story itself is a difficult one to judge, mostly because of the relationship that the spectator has within the play itself. The Author isn’t just about Tim Crouch as a person (an author), nor the fantasy role of Tim Crouch the perverted man who performs a terrible deed on a baby.

The Author is a modern day look at the nature of theatre audiences and our overwhelming desires to sit and spectate without being spectated.

Let the actors, act! And the audiences, watch! Let us not combine the two, but Tim Crouch is set about breaking apart these theatre conventions.

Whilst The Author did not knock me sideways, it certainly left me thoroughly confused, and amused. It made me question conventions of theatre, challenged me to actually accept that I was part of a performance, and that equally I could look and judge the people opposite me. The work is challenging and is not for everyone, especially people who don’t want to be noticed, but for those up for a different night, it is highly recommended.

The Author runs at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the Royal Court Theatre until 24th October. Book online or by calling 020 7565 5000

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A Wider Coverage: London Theatres

June 24, 2009

I was recently asked by one of my followers on Twitter an interesting question [and for those wishing to, you can follow me here]. She had been debating about theatre’s in London that deserved a wider coverage. Her boyfriend believed that the two most in question were that of the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre.

What stuck me as rather odd was that of all the theatre’s, the two chosen were ones that already have a wide coverage, in my opinion.

The National Theatre being our country’s National theatre, the theatre that is meant to represent England and the finest theatre that we have to offer. [Here I’m sure some people are possibly thinking otherwise, and yes I would also agree at times.]

The Royal Court has certainly built it’s name into the theatre history books, with them being one of the leading theatre’s to commission and encourage new writing and who we have to thank for Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill being introduced into the theatre world.

But these theatre’s have their place within our society, within the industry and truly within our hearts, but what about other theatre’s that deserve a wider coverage and appreciation? Perhaps it would be fair to state that all theatre’s deserve more audiences, more money and more praise for the work that is put into them, but this isn’t beneficial for anyone. Therefore after careful consideration I’ve listed a few theatre’s which I believe deserve a wider audience:

Battersea Arts Centre

Battersea Arts Centre

The Battersea Arts Centre [BAC] – Perhaps I’m biased because I truly love this venue. Run by a vibrant team. The BAC is a beautiful grade two listed building that was once Battersea Town Hall. There are multipe rooms and chambers in which a whole variety of performerances take place. What I really appreciate about the BAC is its commitment of delierving a diverse program and scheduling. Even down to the flyers and season brochure, the BAC just screams creativity.  Finally one of the reasons why I truly am taken with this venue is the vast array of opportunities that can be grabbed. The BAC is well known for it’s Scratch Nights where new performers / writers / directors can put on small showings of their work to a willing audience to test-drive the work. Lastly, the BAC’s continual commitment in hosting numerous festivals which bring together some of the most defining contemporary work from around the country into one place: The Burst Festival and The Graduate Festival being the hightlights.

Camdens Peoples Theatre

Camdens Peoples Theatre

The Camdens People’s Theatre [CPT] – There might be a theme building in relation to the theatre’s that I am picking and this can certainly be seen between the BAC and the CPT. Contemporary, new, bold and challenging work seems to be key in these venues and the CPT is great for this. A rather unknown venue when it comes to the grand scheme of things, it features a rather delightful small black box studio. What I love is just how small this venue is, there is a real sense of excitement where new experimental work really finds it home here. The CPT is a place of opportunity for new emerging theatre companies and practitioners to find their ground and allow magic to take place. Another highlight is the Sprint Festival which is currently underway, allowing a whole months worth of experiemental theatre to take to the limelight.

Both the BAC and CPT without a doubt deserve more attention, a wider coverage of audience and appreciation amoungst industry proffessionals and spectators.

What I hope people will appreciate here is that it’s not always the big theatre’s that are funded nationally by huge organisations that deserve constant praise – it’s the smaller, less funded companies that really offer some of the most exciting theatre. These are the theatres that deserve a great appreciation and coverage.

There are many, many more, and it will be interesting to hear your views on which theatre’s you think deserve that little bit more, so do feel to comment or get in contact.

I would even say that ALL fringe based venues and theatres deserve more everything, audiences, money, and so on… So if anything, why not visit one of the small more contemporary theatre places around London? You might just find that you’ve been missing something rather special.

For out of small spaces come some big ideas.

BAC Website – http://www.bac.org.uk/

CPT Website – http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/