This is a pretty great shake-down of Stephen Unwin's criticism of contemporizing Shakespeare.
What makes it a good shake-down is that it employs three quick tools for re-arranging the actual assertions in the piece so that you can look at them more clearly:
- He dresses down the verbiage so you can see the assertions more clearly.
- He runs the argument backward so that you can see the connections in a new light.
- He then puts himself in dialogue with the whole piece.
Next time I get tee'd off by an opinion post or an essay, I might give those tactics a shot.
Anyways, if you don't have time to read all of it (and you really should), I was particularly struck by this:
It probably struck me because I spent this morning a little grumpy about the attention Ben Brantley lavished on Joely Richardson in this review before going on to say how uninteresting he found the actual play itself.
[W]hat are David Tennant and Patrick Stewart? That's right, they are actors. What's more, they're both actually rather good actors. David Tennant, especially, is great. I saw him in The Pillowman at the National years ago. Did you see that? He was great. So were Jim Broadbent and Adam Godley (who are also a bit famous).Now, yes, since then he's been on telly in Dr Who; so more people know who he is; because Dr Who is quite popular. Which might also be down to the fact that David Tennant is a pretty good actor. So, yes he'sfamous, which, I suppose, sort-of makes him a “celebrity”. But he's hardly famous-for-being-famous. As soon as there's a Jedward-led revival of A Comedy of Errors, I'll be right there with you smelling a rat, but until that point, is this “celebrity-led” or is this “famous-excellent-actor-led”?Was the first incarnation of the National Theatre “celebrity-led” because Lawrence Olivier was the first artistic director? Was it “celebrity casting” to have John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in all those plays? Or were they famous because a lot of people all agreed that they very much liked watching them act? (Of course, your very use of the word “celebrity” mires the middle of this debate with so much unconscious class-contempt that I don't even want to start to get into it...)
(UPDATE: I only just noticed that Stephen Unwin actually responded in the blog's comments. Including: "I'm a little startled by the violence of the hatchet job" and "Why don't we have lunch one day and not shout at each other online?".
It's a little sad that when someone goes into an extended criticism like the one of Mr. Unwin, people respond to it as a personal attack. Although the fisking is very thorough and doesn't make him look all that great, it's still very much focused to the matter at hand and largely well argued. Having seen some shouting matches and attacks on personality, I think describing the post as "shout[ing] at each other online" is uncharitable.
Oh, and why do we have these discussions online rather than in person? For the benefit of the viewing audience! I would be very unhappy if this back and forth -- including Mr. Unwin's questions in response, some of which are valid and some of which seem to miss the point.
The worst part of the internet is when people get into shouting matches and assaults of personality, and it gets extended onto a global scale. The best part of the internet is when people get into (sometimes heated) sharp discussions of ideas and it gets extended out on a global scale (at the very least, across the Atlantic!)
Alright, I'm done.)