A little less than thirty minutes' battery life so I'm going to have to be down and dirty with this one. Even further down, I mean. And far, far dirtier.
OK, well, look, we'd better just do this quickly. From our plus ca change dept. (No, dears, I really don't have time to go looking for cedillas.) Exactly ten years ago I did my first Edinburgh piece as a performer, a little show called Puckerlips; it got a one-star drubbing in The Scotsman and a nice four-star appreciation in The List. And now the very same thing has happened to Hippo World Guest Book. ****, The List. *, The Scotsman. I don't have the Scotsman review in front of me and I'm not going to go looking for it online but the bits that come most easily to mind nearly a week on are "Chris Goode, who really should have known better" (which I think I might adopt as my extended moniker, along the lines of Beachcomber's Doctor Strabismus Whom God Preserve of Utrecht), and "Probably the longest hour of my life".
And now of course I get to be the dumbkopf who can't quite get over what everyone else is cheerily saying should be dismissed as a bit of hostile, shallow, self-regarding hackery from a reviewer who plainly had no intention of engaging from the get-go. I never mind people hating my work if there's any evidence of them having made an effort to meet the work where it is. I'm surprised how divisive this piece has been in the context of the Fringe (to which I had thought it was pretty well suited -- I'm so out of touch, really, with what cuts mustard here these days), but I'd have been happy to have the toss argued with me. But Roger Cox of the Scotsman isn't interested in the argument, just the toss. -- So can I really not just emit some kind of devil-may-care pshaw noise and content myself with being misunderstood? Dunno. I don't seem to be able to be. Which I know makes me look like a twit. Point is, it's not some anomalous blip to be treated as merely tomorrow's birdcage-liner. That review plops down in the middle of a field in which I feel anyway confused and despondent; I honestly don't know, I haven't for a while, whether British theatre culture is ever going to be a hospitable environment for the kind of ideas that most interest me, whether I ought to be looking overseas to have some chance of pursuing the work that most satisfactorily embodies what I think of as my vocation. A big part of that feeling of discontentment and strandedness comes from the general poverty of the critical culture here, the failure to develop a circulating dialogue which helps to mediate between audiences and new or potentially difficult ideas. I dare say the Fringe is necessarily at the shallow end of that predicament, with the churn of commodities here (my own included -- I obviously can't claim to be above all this) increasingly adding up to little more than the shrill hubbub of an arms-trading fair; but when I started coming here, in 1994, the idea of experiment still felt like a critical part of the Fringe's DNA. Now it's not the content or the argument of those experimental presentations that commands attention, it's the combination of their novelty and their resemblance to other more familiar discourses.
Anyway, I'm not using up any more computer-juice on all this because there's no way it's not going to look like a nasty case of gigantism in the sour-grapes department. But if anyone's in any doubt about what the Scotsman actually thinks it's for, my one-star review qualifies me for a sort of gallery of shame which means that the piece is one of several that are continually being reprinted for the sole purpose of punishing and humiliating their targets. This is amusing for everyone.
Other things, very very quickly I'm afraid:
Tim Crouch's England is probably the highlight so far. Brilliantly conceived, immaculately written, beautifully performed. Tender, ardent, aware; above all, kindly.
I also really rated Fecund's Special. I haven't seen their work before, though I've heard a lot about it and thought it was probably too cool and ironic and hard-edged for the likes of me. Special initially seems as if it's going to be that, but it quickly gives way to something far braver and more exciting, in which the tonal flatness starts to say something engrossing about how language fails to meet some of our profoundest experiences -- in this case, sadomasochistic sex. It's amazingly well-judged and marvellously unstinting. Terrific acting, amazingly controlled writing. I'd be interested to know how much devising went in to it. (Would have liked a programme, actually.)
Actually my most pleasurable experience of the past week was seeing Brief Encounter for the first time, at the Filmhouse. Nothing to do with the festival. Just a strikingly beautiful film and far more passionate and enthralling than its reputation (via countless rather unfair parodies) suggested. That and The Simpsons Movie have kept me the right side of sane this past week and I can't wait for the Film Festival to start. The news that they're moving the Film Fest to June from next year is baffling and utterly miserable. Another reason to suppose that this is very likely my last Fringe.
OK, I'm getting the yellow triangle dying-battery warning signs now. Later, taters.