Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Eric Bentley Has Little Use for The Newspaper Critic
(or directors!)

Accepting the first annual Thalia award for criticism from the International Association of Theatre Critics, Eric Bentley suggests that daily theatre reviews could really be even shorter. In fact, possibly they could be dispensed with altogether:

Personally, I wouldn't mind if the newspaper critics didn't exist. Let
shows just open, and let the public find out about them by word of mouth from those who attend first or second nights. The modern theater is a huge industry which, like other huge industries, has far too many unneeded middle-men. I wouldn't mind if stage directors didn't exist, either. The 20th century welcomed them but they have outstayed their welcome, and are now a hideous imposition, especially in the opera house (which, for my money, is also a drama house). A friend of mine who is a director says plaintively, "Oh, but a play needs someone. Like orchestral music it requires a conductor, if only to beat time." Now I admit this had been believed as early as the 19th century. Not before that, however. In Mozart's day, no conductor was needed: time can be beaten by the first violinist

I am sure that the comment about directors will raise a furor.

If you read the full text of the speech you will find that he actually very practical about the idea of daily reviewing. His stance could basically be summed up this way: since the daily review is really a consumer guide, why not treat it that way?

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