Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Critical Christmas Cracker

"Give up wanting to be liked, live with imposter syndrome, love what you do"

May 18th: Dominic Sandbrook, the best of modern historians, reviewed a few books in 2019. Among them:

“It is absolutely abysmal, so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly banal that if it had been written by anyone else it would never have been published.”

A N Wilson:

“You start to think that the author is worse than a twit...there is something morally repellent about a book that can gloss over massacres and pillage.”

The author in question will likely be too busy for a follow-up. On 24th July he joined the Cabinet in Westminster as Leader of the House.

27th July: Literary critic Robbie Millen saw a common thread in novelists Waugh, Woolf, Vidal and Mailer:

“We need such writers to look at the world through a cold, gimlet eye, willing to put down on paper that unpleasant, truthful thing, We want them to be awkward, to be rude, to chuck grenades. To say things that others won't say. To be the cat that walks alone.”

3rd August: John Sutherland wrote on the virtues of attendance:

“Our experience of drama also requires certain skills in us, as the audience, as to how to respond, appreciate and judge the performance. The more you go to the theatre, the better you get at it.”

The Lee & Goodman partnership is held as a high water-mark for Arts Council sponsorship and a model for the Minister & Chair relationship. My holiday reading included Arnold Goodman on why the Prime Minister appointed Jennie Lee to the arts portfolio.

“From conversations I knew that he [Harold Wilson] had sensed- with remarkable discrimination- that she was a woman who loved the arts and loved still more the opportunity of bringing them in their best and most uncontaminated form to the greatest possible number of her fellow countrymen.

“To Jennie, none of the confused thinking of later administrations was even a possibility. She had spent much time with artists of all kinds- musicians, writers and painters- and knew that the genuine artist was an uncompromising creature who would not relax his standards. She was not concerned to bring a mediocre amalgam of bits and pieces to a multitude unprepared to receive the unalloyed product.

“She was a forthright woman, given to plain statement, impatient of circumlocution, hating evasion and above all loathing any attitude of defeatism.”

August 5th: The art critic Martin Gayford cites Bridget Riley. What she says is true for all endeavour:

“People feel that it is very important for artists to have an aim. Actually, what's vital is to have a beginning. You find your aim in the process of working. You discover it.”

21st September: James Lasdum re-reads “Serotonin”:

“One reads Houellebecq precisely for his willingness to be loathed.”

October the Stage profiles Kate Wasserberg:

“For Wasserberg, a rehearsal room should be “very loving”. “People said: ‘Grow a thicker skin.’ And Terry [Hands] said: ‘Why? Your thin skin is why are you good.’ ” She understands why people were telling her to toughen up; they were worried about her.”

There was a nice anecdote about the founding days of the Other Room.

“Someone had once given Wasserberg a very useful piece of advice: ring up all of the big arts organisations and ask them for advice on fundraising. They won’t want to give up their time, so they’ll send you someone junior. And if that person is great, poach them. The person she poached was Bizzy Day. Half an hour into their first meeting Wasserberg asked Day if she wanted to set the theatre up with her.”

October 5th: Suzanne Moore gave good advice to women in an article subtitled “ Find a room of your own: top 10 tips for women who want to write.”

“Give up wanting to be liked, live with imposter syndrome and love what you do...Women need to front it out. Panic inside? Impostor syndrome? Trust me, it never goes, so live with it.

Love what you do. If you don’t love it and find it all rather lonely because it is, find something else.”

And the essence:

“If you want to report the world, be in it. I know more about how people think by listening to the chat on the bus than I ever do going to Westminster.

I knew who would win the election, because I heard the mums in the school playground wavering. I informed a notorious spin doctor of this. “The mums in the school playground?” he sneered at me, seemingly unaware that such women even had the vote. His side lost.”

November Front Row ran a series of short items on publishing over a week. Writers' incomes on average are 40% down since the turn of the century. An agent of long-standing observed:

“The breakthrough for an author comes some time between the eight and the twelfth book.”

This sounds right. The first Caryl Churchill play to be produced was the tenth she had written.

There was a late entry from the Times' summary of the year. Music critics Richard Morrison and Neil Fisher did not look kindly at ENO's “Orpheus in the Underworld”:

“So you buy your ticket for what you thought was a light-hearted Offenbach operetta , and you are confronted by a woman giving birth to dead child, followed by the child's funeral- even before the overture has finished. And this grotesque miscalculation of taste arguably wasn't even the worst element of Emma Rice's earnestly moralising, humourless production.”

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
24 December 2019


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