20 May 2017

I'm scared to review: Wild Bore

Wild Bore
Malthouse Theatre
18 May 2017
Beckett Theatre
to 4 June
malthousetheatre.com.au


Wild Bore. Zoe Coombs Marr. Photo by Tim Grey


Wild Bore. noun
1. Those who talk out of their arse, dribble shit and don't understand dramaturgical intent.
2. Theatre reviewer.

It's also Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott's response to critical responses to their own work, and that of others. Opening to a critical contingent of two at Malthouse on Thursday, its verbatim(ish) mash-up of memorable reviews is as much a celebration of arts writing as it is a hilarious damnation of us who write those so-wanted-but-so-hated reviews.

Readers of reviews and critical writing in Melbourne will recognise some of the quoted voices.

But I'm not cunty enough to have been quoted.*

I don't know how I feel about that.

It's really nice to be quoted.

There are plenty of theatre makers who think I'm a bitch. I've seen the letters about my ignorance and know about the quest to get me banned. Most of these criticisms of the critic have been over writing about women's voices, women's points-of-view and how women are presented on stages.

I should have said feminist (bitch).

Wild Bore is mostly about people who write about women with a gaze that makes women feel so fucking special.

It's why these performers continue to make theatre that also encourages critical responses that use less-quotable words like gender, privilege, diversity and gaze. And why that writing can get a bit sweary because we're fucking over having to explain why we're fucking over it.

Remember when Jane Montgomery Griffiths wrote a response to reviews on ArtsHub that questioned a gender bias in reviews about her interpretation of Antigone (Malthouse, 2015)? Grab a snack and go deep into the comments – some are in the show – and know that the ones that were going on in a not-so-public sphere were funnier, smarter and bitchier. Some of us do censor our public voices.

Wild Bore. Ursula Martinez Photo by Tim Grey

This work – which they've been developing in their three home continents while performing their own shows – naturally focuses on the negative reviews and the failure (perceived or willful) of the writers to understand (or accept) the intent of the works.

With their best cheeks forward – the talking-out-of-the-arse imagery is clear –, each discuss reviews of their work that didn't get chosen for their pull quote of adoring adjectives or appropriate number of stars. Having seen the shows discussed, it was confronting to hear only the negative voices.

As artists and creators, do you really listen to those voices? Are the positive, researched, sat-up-until-4am-trying-to-get-the-words-right, you-made-me-feel-and-care reviews dismissed by the negative?

Of course, it makes far better theatre to use the negative voices – and the Wild Bore performances as described by the reviews may be worth the pain of those bad reviews. But it highlights why the bad bad reviews are encouraged, and why the responsibility of a reviewer's voice isn't necessarily considered.

Negative, bitchy reviews with memorable metaphors get read. They get shared. They get clicks. They encourage engagement and conversation. And so writers are encouraged, and often paid, to write more reviews like that.

It's awesome to be read.

It's brilliant to get paid to write.

Arts writers are writers. WE LOVE BEING READ.

Verbose metaphors get read.

Can anyone who read Byron Bache's corn-in-the-poo quote ever forget it? The show (The Crucible, MTC 2013) may have been forgotten, but not that quote. It got him regular paid work; the dream of most arts writers. But despite him continuing with some excellent writing and critical comment, he might only be remembered as the corn-in-the-poo quote critic. Arts writers understand irony.

Those gloriously hideous reviews are read.

They not only get read more than the positive ones, they get a bloody wonderful feminist theatre show made out of them.

 And, shhh, Krishna Istha.


Wild Bore. Adrienne Truscott & Zoe Coombs Marr. Photo by Tim Grey

*Or nice enough to be in nice quotes on the web page.

Time to Talk with The Guardian, 23 May after the 7 pm performance, Van Badham joins the cast to talk about their encounters with critics.

Monash Meets Malthouse, 27 May at 5 pm at  Jane Montgomery Griffiths, Alison Croggon, Cameron Woodhead, Richard Watts and Fleur Kilpatrick join the cast to discuss artists responding to critics.

The reviews

Maxim Boon: themusic.com.au

Alison Croggon: The Monthly

Cameron Woodhead: The Age

Rose Johnstone: Time Out

Keith Gow: keithgow.com

Kate Herbert: Herald Sun

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