Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Generations Collide

Dame Judi Dench thinks young actors aren't paying enough attention to the older generations:

"Probably the majority of young actors want to make a big impression in television or film straight away,” she told the Cheltenham Literature Festival

"I wish that young people now — and it’s not very fashionable — learnt a bit about our fantastic heritage of theatre and the people who’ve gone before, learnt a bit about the history of the theatre, because it’s phenomenal. It is nowhere better in the world than here.”

Dame Judi, who appeared with her left hand in a bandage and a large plaster on the thumb of her right hand, added: “We have such a huge history of the most extraordinary performances and productions and directors and actors and designers, everything that I wish wasn’t forgotten.

“It is not forgotten by a lot of people but it is forgotten by most young people coming up."

Meanwhile, younger director Rupert Goold, (of the Patrick Stewart Macbeth fame,)thinks that too much defernce is already given to that genereation:

Britain's most sought-after stage director Rupert Goold, 39, hit back at Dame Judi's comments, rounding on staid, middle-aged audiences and critics. Goold, known for his bold production of Oliver!, said her views threatened to “strangle” innovation.

He said young actors and directors were already forced to limit their ideas because “most of the audience is middle-aged, the critics are middle-aged” and it feels like “you are seeking to win the approval of your parents all the time”.


He insisted that modern actors were in many ways more professional and spent less time getting drunk than previous generations.

He said: “They are less deferential in a good way than I gather was the case 40 years ago.” They are also in physically better shape and more technically proficient than previous generations, he added.

Benedict Nightengale at the Times Online thinks they both have a point:

The director is hugely gifted, but he’s surely guilty of Year Zero, clean-slate thinking.

For him, freshness is too often about imposing his own clever-clever ideas on plays, not in discerning and fulfilling an author’s aims and intentions. And that’s not a generational problem, as Goold must have discovered when members of his own cast rebelled against his reinterpretation of King Lear, with the result that it was a bit more Shakespearean when it moved from Liverpool to London.

On the other hand, he’s right to defend younger actors from any inference that they’re less able than their predecessors. He’s equally right to add that they’re more physically adroit than, say, many members of the Gielgud generation. One can only judge the quality of actors from their performances on stage and my own recent experiences tell me that the future of acting and therefore of the British theatre is very bright indeed.

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