Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fringe Theatre - What's Old is New?

In the Guardian, Andrew Haydon reports on his latest trip to the Fringe of London's theaters.

He finds that the offerings are quite tried and true, if even a bit creaky and boring, (one is a concept-free Measure for Measure.) Maybe, he suggests, the radical type of work for which the fringe used to serve as ahome has become fully assimilated into the mainstream.

He muses:

On the other hand, perhaps staging old-fashioned work is now a radical gesture. It could certainly be argued that if the National and Royal Court are no longer interested in straightforward productions of Shakespeare or revivals of political drama from the 70s, there should be a place for those too.

And yet it rankles. I have sympathy for the arguments in favour of plurality and, while disagreeing profoundly, I do understand the point of view which suggests "innovation" and "experiment" are simply a set of fashionable conventions. I can also see how producers might be wary of losing money on too-radical programming. But it still bothers me that the fringe now often seems to be less forward-looking in terms of staging and material than the Lyttleton or the Gielgud. Its receiving houses are all too often home to productions by directors seeking to showcase their mainstream talents and its producing houses play it safe with solid revivals of tried and tested classics.


Thomas Garvey said...

So let me make sure I've got this right. This writer is "rankled" by "straightforward productions of Shakespeare." He thinks they're not "forward-looking" enough. I probably couldn't be more opposed to this guy on every level. To me, pointless formal experimentation is the new nostalgia, and "straightforward" communication seems shocking and radical. His is the old Gen-X world of navel-gazing pleasure in Net-based artistic isolation; mine is the "older" - now, hopefully "new" - world of connection and shared culture. Well, it's at least good to hear that somewhere the tide is turning, finally (thank you, Obama?); and let's hope this schmuck stays on the wrong side of history.

Art said...

Actually, Tom, you're right. :)

I don't think you two could be more opposed.

But, on the other hand, he seems to agree with you about the changes happening.