Friday, November 20, 2009

The Etiquette of Leaving In Protest

In the Guardian, critic Mark Lawson has a rollercoaster of feelings and thoughts after hearing an incredibly offensive bit of dialogue at a show.

He stuck through the rest of the play, but it seems, even afterwards, he is stuggling with teh question of what he should have done.

My first reaction was to hope for a mishearing caused by the actress's mumbling or my ageing ears. But the published text was on my knee and the lines had been crisply delivered as written. I have never believed in censorship, but it struck me that these words, though possibly tolerable if spoken as personal testimony in a documentary, have no justification when given by a male writer to a female fictional character because they appear to validate one of the nastiest and most discredited of male fantasies. Even more queasily, the speech is an incidental detail, irrelevant to the main business of the play.

What is the etiquette of protesting in the theatre?

1 comment:

Ian Thal said...

He did what he should have done: stuck it out as it was his professional duty, and written this essay about how it so affected him on a personal level that he couldn't write the standard review.

I can't imagine under these circumstances that a critic would have an excuse to walk out. The offending dialogue might have been given greater context after intermission.

That said, I find ridiculous that he states:

it struck me that these words, though possibly tolerable if spoken as personal testimony in a documentary, have no justification when given by a male writer to a female fictional character because they appear to validate one of the nastiest and most discredited of male fantasies.

So, a documentary that validated "one of the nastiest and most discredited of male fantasies" would have been acceptable? Lawson forgets that "documentaries" can be selectively "edited" to fit an ideological agenda (he should know, he does write for The Guardian after all.)

Furthermore, the realm of sexual fantasies is sometimes a nasty place; and people, be they fictitious or flesh and blood, be they victims or violators, sometimes sometimes reinterpret past experiences to fit their current emotional needs (which from Lawson's description, may very well be the case-- I haven't seen Our Class.)

Now, that Lawson also observes that, "[e]ven more queasily, the speech is an incidental detail, irrelevant to the main business of the play" is definite vector for his criticism, but he spends more time considering the history of walking out.