Friday, November 13, 2009

On Criticism: How to Describe Acting?, Andrew Haydon at The Guardian

Found on-line, thanks to links through

Andrew Haydon, freelance theatre writer, pondered in
The Guardian on September 30 about the challenge of describing acting -- and notes how often a reviewer concentrates instead on plot, action, message, and theme:

How do you describe great acting?

Theatre critics tend to write as if the play's the thing – and give the performances short shrift. We need a better way of talking about acting

There are almost as many views on what a review of a play is for as there are opinions about particular plays. Is it a journalistic report of an event? Or a consumer guide letting people know whether it's worth them investing time and money? Should it cater to audiences who will never see the production, or should it be a philosophical assessment of the director's dramaturgy? All of the above? None?

Reviews reflect very precisely what we think theatre is. What we, as a culture, value about theatre. Of course, to an extent, reviews serve all the above functions. What is interesting is the way in which they choose to serve those functions.

Something I've been finding fascinating recently is how hard it is to write about acting, to put into words what an actor's performance is like. There just doesn't seem to be an appropriate vocabulary.

[photo caption on-line: Intangible qualities … Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Titus Andronicus, Paris, 1958. Photograph: Pierre Vauthey/Corbis Sygma]

Click to read full commentary at The Guardian online

Click to connect to the theatre blog at The Guardian

Click for a list of Haydon's pieces published by The Guardian

Click for Haydon's blog (of long reviews of UK theatre productions), "Postcards from the Gods"

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