Monday, June 25, 2007

Theatre Criticism - The Objective True Factual Truth Part 1

i've been meaning to say something about AA Gill's Sunday Times attack on the critics and the responses that it's provoked. This particular storm seems to be already well on its way to blowing over, so maybe no one gives a shit anymore, but hey, y'know, i've been busy*.

Leaving aside snarky comments about dress sense, and the fact that some people have suggested that he's angling for a job, the substantial content of Gill's attack is as follows:

1. Critics are basically uncourteous towards the theatrical establishment, making unreasonable demands which compel theatre managers to rearrange the seating for press nights and being in such a hurry to get out of the theatre and write up their reviews that they do not even applaud the work like every other fucker has to.

2. Theatre is uniquely ill served by the critical establishment which surrounds it. Reviewers are "a moribund, joyless, detached bunch. Where are the voices that ring out as being aesthetically intelligent, passionate, current and, most important, entertaining?" In short, the writing itself is boring and stylistically bankrupt. Theatre criticism has suffered as a result, slipping in "cultural importance".

3. Britain has a great tradition of theatre writers which puts the current crop to shame. At present there's no one who can hold a torch to Tynan, Hobson or Shaw.

4. The critics place theatre in relation to other theatre rather than in relation to life outside the theatre because they have seen lots of theatre, but not lots of life outside it. "The only context for theatre in their reviews is other theatre. Drama exists in a closed museum of nostalgic experience."

Right, it's fair to say that plenty of people aren't very happy about this, although it hasn't quite caused the kind of stink that the whole "Dead White Men" shenanigans skunked off.

Now, i think it's fair to say, that 1. doesn't matter very much. 4. is arguable, but Gill don't argue it very well (although interesting Lyn Gardner accepts this point in a piece which is otherwise a refutation of everything he says), but 2 and 3... Well, put it this way - if there's a writer as good as Hobson or Tynan around now, can someone name them please? (If you are one of those who maintained that there was Absolutely Nothing Wrong, Nothing To See Here, Move Along Please when Hytner levelled the misogyny charge, you can double up this challenge by explaining how this review by Nic de Jongh is an example of feminist criticism, or how when you're living in a world in which the most famous line from a half-way recent review is essentially a middle-aged man getting an erection over a Hollywood star, 'Pure Theatrical Viagra', everything's tickety-boo on the power/gender axis.)

Now what's more interesting than Gill's article is the responses. Michael Coveny (second article down) raises himself to below Gill's level by saying he looks gay. Mark Shenton calls him impertinent. Impertinent? How. Very. Fucking. Pompous. Criticising the critics is impertinent unless done by, who? The Queen maybe? Is she allowed?

Lyn Gardner, as ever, is the only person to say anything half-way intelligent.

Now Lyn, along with Maxie Szalwinska, was one of the very few in the critical establishment to respond to Hytner's accusation with anything other than dismissive, contemptuous indignation, and in general she seems pretty up for asking questions about what criticism is for, and whether the critics are doing their jobs. So big credit to her for not partaking in the collective ingestion of the blue pill every time anyone throws up the possibility of the red one.

But she says some immensely depressing stuff.

" style I suspect that Gill really means the flip, cynical wit which characterises his own TV and restaurant reviews and which is so beloved by editors. Don't get me wrong, they're a great read, clearly written - like his article on theatre criticism - with provocation in mind. But in my experience only the direst theatre shows with no redeeming qualities lend themselves to that kind of waspish humour. Such writing often showcases the reviewer over the work and while it may be possible to give blackened cod and wilted greens such treatment on a regular basis, my own experience is that when you apply it to the live experience of theatre it has a distorting effect. Funny and fair are often awkward bedfellows."

Now, one thing at a time. Thing one: Whilst it may be true that Gill "really means flip, cynical wit" it's not actually what he says. What he says is "Where are the voices that ring out as being aesthetically intelligent, passionate, current and, most important, entertaining?" There are a few, a very few, and Gardner herself is one of them - her passion for theatre permeates her writing, and when she likes something you can actually feel the thrill that she gets from it rather than the cold, dry, sub-academic categorisation that you'll get from some of the others - but jeez, does anyone really think that these attributes are the norm in critics? Really? Honestly? Anyway, it's true that it's a good thing that everyone's not being all waspish and all, but it seems a little unfair to attack Gill's argument by saying that what he actually means is something different to what he actually said, and that this hidden meaning is a Bad Thing.

Thing the twoth: Lyn seems to be saying that you can't be both entertaining as a writer and fair to the piece. Look, the most famous line in British theatre criticism ever is Tynan's "I could not love anyone who did not wish to see Look Back in Anger" which is a mighty fine example of vibrant, playful, even witty prose that says a hell of a lot, and a hell of a lot good, about the play. Writing can be passionate, articulate, entertaining and truthful, insightful and well argued. In fact, i think you can make a pretty strong case for the likelihood of it being the latter being pretty well correlated with its possession of the former set of attributes. And yes, as Gardner says, it's a really bad thing that reviews are getting shorter, but does she really believe that 300 words leaves little room for "style to swagger"? Style isn't an optional extra that gets tacked on around the edges of the serious writing. It's how the writing itself is written. If you (as Lyn doesn't, but as some of her commenters do) believe that by using an idiosyncratic style you're making the writing about the reviewer and not the play, you're presuming that there is some kind of neutral style in which the reviewer becomes transparent and that the play is a passive object entirely separate from the reviewer. And you're wrong on both presumptive counts.

I can understand why the critics feel the need to close ranks in the face of every attack - many of the arguments used against them are specious and ill-thought-out bitterness from practitioners and they are being squeezed by editors who barely tolerate them. But Hytner and Gill have been met with the same hostility that Ian Shuttleworth was on the end of when he pointed out that a generation of critics was being lost because of the effective tenure of the first-stringers. There is, with the honourable exception of Gardner during the Dead White Males affair, almost no take-up in the opportunity that these moments offer for self-reflection, for self-criticism. Can no one even brook the possibility that the way things are working right now isn't perfect and that the people doing the jobs aren't all doing it in a perfect way? A healthy critical plurality would be debating the issues that have been raised by Gill and Hytner, not just with the provocateurs, but amongst themselves. What we have instead is univocal shouting down of dissent.

5 points and a pie to the first person who can explain why that's a good thing.

* In this context, "busy" means "lazy".

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bloody Hippo World Mess

Apologies for the unforced absence. Turns out i'm really lazy. Who knew?

Saw a preview of Chris Goode's Hippo World Guest Book at Arts Admin's Toynbee Studios. First up, what a lovely complex. i didn't even realise it existed, despite having been to parties at Toynbee Hall. i hereby resolve to drink more coffee and see more things there.

The show was lovely, sweet, funny and depressing by turns, but i don't want to say too much about it cos it was only a preview. Suffice to say, it's certainly in my top two ever plays about websites about hippos i've seen. And that it raises all kinds of interesting questions about the way we communicate or don't, the way the body relates to the text we produce, and that there's a whole essay to be written on the way it problematises the assumptions on which verbatim theatre builds its dramatic house of straw, whilst still being a piece of verbatim theatre of sorts. If you're going to be in Edinburgh, i'd highly recommend it.

Then i saw Forced Entertainment's Bloody Mess - part of Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown. Bloody Mess is the piece they made to celebrate their twentieth anniversary of being a big ol'experimental theatre company (whatever that means). Now, i saw Pleasure by Forced Ent when i was seventeen and it blew me away. When they did their 24 hour show Who Can Sing A Song to Unfrighten Me i spent a total of 18 hours watching it. Recently, however, their work hasn't thrilled me in quite the way it once did.

There's plenty to celebrate about 20 years (more now) of Forced Ent. Anyone who saw Katie Mitchell's Attempts On Her Life at the National may well have spotted their influence looming large, and on that stage that's a victory that shouldn't be taken lightly. But there's also a difficulty in producing theatre to celebrate a theatre company who are so intimately concerned with failure - the failure of narratives, the failure of performance, the failure of understanding. What happens when your failure gets successful? When your mess isn't really a mess because it is so securely contained within a dramatic framework that you've established over the years?

And the problem with the piece (or one of the big problems with the piece) is that it is never at risk of failure. What we're seeing looks a bit like failure (people say they're going to do something - tell a story say - and then they do it badly and everyone else around them conspire to fuck it up by playing, variously, with a smoke machine, the sound effects, giving unhelpful support and advice, interrupting to talk about sex, you know, all the kind of shit that goes wrong when you're in a Forced Entertainment show). It smells a bit like failure too - the person who's trying to do something will get annoyed and shout at the people who are fucking it up for him. But it isn't actually failure. Why? Because this is the whole point. There was never any hope that anyone would tell a story. Never any chance that anyone would actually do anything. So it's no loss when they don't. So it just doesn't matter. The failure is so obviously, so obviously the point, that it just isn't actual failure.

At their best Forced Ent can debunk what they're doing, can comprehensively fail, yet still somehow actually manage to achieve something. So you get something that is funny and stupid and yet somehow dignified and beautiful. But this rarely happens here. The opportunity is there for some really powerful moments, but this opportunity has not been taken. So when we're told that we're going to have a beautiful silence (and we're told at length - two naked men suggesting the exact type of beautiful silence we could have for a very, very long time, and we know they are going to go on, and on, and on - that they are not going to stop at the point that we would normally consider this boring, and that we're going to have to sit and watch it or walk out - and some do - the Ents love to play on this tension and whether or not you like them pretty much seems to depend on whether you're prepared to let them do this without thinking that they're wankers) it is, obviously, constantly interrupted. Thing is, if you want a five minute long (cos that's the length they set) silence to fail, you don't need to have actors talking through it - it'll fail anyway. People will move, clothes will rustle, the speakers will hum, you can proabably even hear the lighting grid. But in the attempt to have a five minute silence, and in the failure of that attempt we may learn something about silence and something about failure and we may experience something that comes sufficiently close to silence, something that is sufficiently rare and special, that it becomes beautiful and valuable and worth something. What I'm trying to say is that actually trying to have a five minute silence, actually bloody-mindedly sticking to it, actually forcing that particular entertainment on us instead of playing up to us by distracting from it with a load of jokes would be cool, would feel daring, and would generate genuine tensions - between performance and audience, hope and failure, experience and meaning. This doesn't. Instead we get a lot of bad jokes about not being able to have a silence, and a pretence at frustration from the performers who purport to want a silence, but we know it's only a pretence and, crucially, we don't buy into the pretence, because the Ents have already pretty thoroughly debunked pretending.

And yet, and yet - i went with Lily who was seeing them for the first time, and who said she just. wanted. to. scream. throughout the show. And i found myself defending them. Gaaarr. And not just saying look, there's good bits in it (and there are - the opening's great and there's a brilliant Gorilla). This is the thing about Forced Ent - just when you think you can not like what they're doing, you end up having to argue that people have got them wrong, and that there's actually nothing wrong with what they're doing. (Which is why when i wrote this -the only 'proper' review i've ever written in that i went as a critic on a press ticket, brrrr - i did it in the form i did.) Maybe i'm just so egotistical that i can't bear the idea that someone dislikes something for a different reason than the one that i dislike it. But maybe there are still fights to be won about what constitutes theatre, about what you can do with theatre, and about what we should expect from theatre, and the things that forced ent seem to be saying are things which need to be said, and are right, but right now, they just aren't saying them very well. And frankly they should be, because when you're Britain's leading experimental theatre company (whatever that means), it's your job.

ps - i've referred to them as the Ents for much of this post in the hope that Mathew Warchus will dress them up as trees and put them in his show. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


some meandering thoughts that don't really do this justice:

i fell in love with Noh Theatre at the age of 17. Except, obviously, i only fell in love with it in the abstract, seeing as there wasn't a lot of it going in Surrey in the late 90s. Truth be told, I fell in love with one page of a theatre history book that i found in my school library - the briefest of overviews of an ancient, foreign art form was enough. Partly i just thought (and still do) that masks were cool. But I was also impressed by the rigidity of Noh's formal structures - its codified language of speech, music and gesture acting as both a representation of the world and as an idealised form of theatrical poetry in its own right. A stage space that has already reached its full realisation, and so remains unchanged for centuries. A largely unchanging narrative structure. This is dramatic convention solidified into a tradition which reaches back over 700 years. The English, even the European, theatre has no such connection with it's antecendants. All our traditions are dead - commedia dell'arte, medieval pageants, the popular voice of the chorus - living performance consigned to history and never to be resurrected, useful, perhaps as a training tool, and half-glimpsed as memories in the occaisional attempt to offer a modern take on the system of human relationships that characterised them. A living tradition which long ago solidified its structures, and yet which somehow still survives, offers more than a conversation with the past - it offers a way of relating to events, to people, to action, which we have forgotten, and which, because it is located in the now (which has never, it's worth remembering, happened before) is in itself a new thing. This is the opposite of the ossified remains of dead structure encoded in the dead and deadening museum walls of London's West End. The only space in London which comes close to provoking us in this way is the rebuilt Globe, ghosted not only by the memory of the players that once played there, but by the new forms of interaction demanded by an old but still dynamic (and essential popular) performance space placed in a modern context with all the no flash photography, mobile phone related-announcements and passing air-traffic that entails.

But I (unsurprisingly) digress.

In looking to the past (and to theatrical traditions outside our own) we discover conventions, codes and rules of performance which, when played now, would be seen as right on the cutting edge of the avant-garde. When Yeats was conducting his theatrical experiments at the Abbey Theatre he drew as heavily from Noh in his attempts to forge a theatrical form as he did from Irish mythology in his attempts to find a National content for his drama. Those plays still have not been, and perhaps never will be, assimilated into the theatrical mainstream in the way that, for example, the earlier works of Beckett have been. In short, they still feel avant-garde, and its pointless to try to force them to conform to the conventions of now and pointless to judge them by how closely they recall these modern conventions. So when Lyn Gardner describes Benjamin Yeoh's translation of Nakamitsu at the Gate as "a titbit", largely on the basis that it lasts little more than 50 minutes, she is making this very error. Some things take a long time, some things don't. Doesn't make long things any better than short nor vice-versa. Sometimes you can travel a fantastic distance in a very short space of time, and that's exactly what happens here.

What we are not presented with is a piece of Noh theatre. Rather Nakamitsu is a piece of contemporary British theatre that draws heavily from Noh. To attempt to imitate the tradition without the specific skills and training it requires would obviously be a fruitless task. So the elements of the design echo elements of a Noh stage without ever trying to copy it just as elements of the performance language echo that of Noh. Performers can suddenly switch to the third person and begin narrating their own actions, often before they've happened (which has multiple of neat effects- forcing us to watch how the specific action unfolds like a good brechtian audience, but also forcing us to watch in the knowledge that the outcome will not be good, removing the possibility that an action may be interrupted no matter how much we may want it to be, making events feel inevitable, yet not making them seem fatalistically predetermined because moments of choice are also highlighted and explored).

Another steal from the Noh tradition is the fantastic use of music, which takes up as much space as the action, and which provides far more than mere athmosperics, driving and illuminating the drama as strong rhythms and beautiful harmonics go straight for the head and the gut. Also, there's an instrument called a hang that looks like a flying saucer.

So, while I've already said that this is very much a piece of modern British drama, it still feels very unfamiliar. The levels of tension at which it is played with heightened delivery of poetic text are generally things that take a while to work up to on the London stage, but here they thrillingly interrupt the dumb-show/prologue/framing device and don't let up until the end. Passages are delivered or sung in Japanese and it makes perfect sense when this happens. As a result, a climactic song in English fails to achieve quite the same level of, errr, height. While the song is beautiful and beautifully performed in itself, having heard the same performers singing in Japanese as they make their journeys accross the narrow traverse space, that song feels more like something you might find in a musical, and less like something you might find in a Noh play or equivalent. If that makes sense.

And I think this is because English as a voiced language is relectuant to go to those kinds of heightened and enobled places. Some people still think that church services in Latin are more, I don't know, sacred - and it's not all that hard to see why. So the extent to which Yeoh, the directors and the production team have discovered a language, both textual and theatrical, which manages to become heightened at all really is an achievement. The only similar performance I've seen in terms of the sheer thrill of being present in a space in which words, and particularly breathe and the bodies' movement are all exciting a heightened state of tension and awareness in the spectator is a production of Sophocles' Electra in ancient Greek at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge, in which the foreign sound of the dead language was so skillfully manipulated by the performers that it felt like they were running you through the gears of some kind of theatrical automatic transmission in your gut. Anyway, when it's working, and it's working rather an impressive lot of the time, that is what's going on here.

The show feels a hell of a lot longer than its 50 minute running time, and that's in no way a negative thing (I know everyone else is saying 45 minutes, but I'm pretty certain I checked my watch when I came out) . Just as the crossing of the beautifully sparse stage can be elongated into a rhythmic, hypnotic song and dance in which we understand something about the nature of journeying, so the action can be halted for comment or further explanation of its details. Time and space become elastic. Dan Bye says some very perceptive things about theatrical space and that which surounds it here, but to carry on a bit and disagree with him a bit, space can be perceived not as absence or emptiness but as the site of action, of events, of articles and artifacts. i am necessarily in space, and the space i am in is altered by my presence as i am by its. Even the empty space is actually always full, even if it's only full of emptiness. Emptiness has meaning, has associations, has a particular way it operates on the head, the gut, the toes. And emptiness can be filled up with all kinds of other nothing - this is the very basis on which mime operates. So when someone moves or speaks within a space (or within a space of time) they are not so much filling a space as acting upon it. When this is done skillfully, space becomes a kind of theatrical piece of putty in the performer's hand, at once being manipulated and remaining very much the same piece of putty.

Gaaargh. I've wibbled on for ages now, without in any way coming to the point. Look, it's on till Saturday - go and see it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

machines for making you happy

There are now two persons unknownses - i met up with the marvelous Chris Perkin and we're going to make a lovely theatre company thing happen. i'm genuinely excited, not just because Chris is a great writer and runs a London's exciting Tabard Theatre, but because for the first time in ages i feel like i'm a part of something rather than an individual trying to make things happen, and also because i think i'd almost forgotten what collaboration means and how fucking exciting it is.

We chatted about one project in particular and it very rapidly went from half a thought that's been floating around in the back of my mind for the best part of 5 years to something that's actually going to happen, and it's been a long old time since i've so enjoyed the pinging around of an idea. i love the way that a very simple suggestion can open up such different possibilities for different people, and how it's scope grows, but what i really love most is when someone misunderstands what you're saying and ends up doing coming up with something utterly different and much better than you could ever have thought of.

And this is at the heart of what i think about directing. i know lots of actors like to get the impression that the director knows exactly what they're doing, but the fact is that even those who pretend that they do are making it up as they go along. The alternative, and this is probably much worse, is that they are clinging to an inflexible methodology, and i really do believe that whilst you need to put thought into your process, you also need to believe that people, even actors, are a little bit more than perpetual emotion machines into which you can feed certain inputs in order to obtain certain outputs.

So when you accept that it's basically impossible to get people to do what you want them to, and that half the time it's impossible to even get them to understand what you think you want them to do, everything gets a lot happier and a lot more exciting.

So, yes, persons unknown is going to be a theatre company. hurrah!

sadly, i somehow doubt i'll manage to get chris to post on this blog, but i'll give it a go. And then everyone can appreciate his charming grumpiness through the medium of the interweb.

In other smiley news, I went and played Tassos Steven's fabulous theatrical game A Small Town Anywhere last week, as well as thoroughly enjoying the celebrations around the Royal Festival Hall's re-opening after its refurbishment (although so far as I can tell, it's exactly the same as it used to be, only with less toilets - sorta the opposite of Wembley) - especially Billy Bragg leading everytone in a glorious rendition of Waterloo Sunset, as the sun set, near Waterloo, and a remarkable and totally joyous blast of skiffle from The Bee Strings (who sadly, or more correctly I suppose, not sadly at all) seem to have no online presence at all. All benignly overlooked by Anthony Gormley's Event Horizon figures which suddenly seemed to leap back to life that evening having faded into the background of a habitual city landscape after the initial thrill of their discovery.

And I have a new laptop, having had my old one and about three years worth of work stolen from my house last weekend. Sample conversation:

- So did you have your work backed up?

- No.

- So you've lost all your work?

- Yes.

- You have to back up your work.

- Yes.

- Otherwise you'll lose all your work.

- Yes.

- It's very important to back up your work. You can get an external hard-drive to do it with.

- Yes.

- So you've lost everything?

- Yes.

- You should have backed it up.

- Yes.

Moral of the story: try again, fail again, use a secure online storage facility to back-up your failures better.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Right, the long-trailed explanation of why Pirates of The Caribean: At The World's End is the most radical film of the decade:

The first two instalments of the filmilisation of the rollercoaster were great fun - basically resting their appeal on the fairly solid ground that i) pirates are cool, ii) Johnny Depp/Keira Knightley (delete as applicable) is hot and immensely talented/hot (delete as applicable). Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow, a loveably insane rogue, was one of the finest, funniest filmic creations we'd seen for quite some time and if the Oscars rewarded talent and not po-faced sentimentality, he'd have one Oscar more.

As family film entertainment goes, the films were top draw - witty, fantastical, swashbuckly, without schmaltzy sentimentality, and with more than a hint of self-knowing and self-deprecating irony. Although the second half of the second film was a bit unsatisfyingly flabbily plotted, and didn't so much end as do a to be continued thing which is mildly irritating when you have to wait a week for the next doctor who, but it infuriating when you have to wait a year for the next film.

So, when you're making the third bit, presuming you neither i) an idiot, nor ii) a Machieavellian evil genius intent on destroying Hollywood and the minds of children, you give us more of the same. More big monsters, more big swordfighty stuff, more good(ish) vs evil conflicty heroismy shit, more wide open blue seas.

Now, because I'm a generous man with a weakness for evil genii, I'm going to presume that the makers of At The World's End are ii).

Now, so far as I'm aware, it's been a while since someone made the third part of a family film trilogy in which all of its selling points have been replaced by things much crazier.

About a quarter of the total footage might as well have been filmed by DAVID FUCKING LYNCH for all the sense it makes. Seriously, it's warped.

Everyone fell in love with depp's brilliantly deranged Cap Jack Sparrow in the first two instalments, where he was always viewed from a distance, the camera celebrating his charismatic eccentricity. Part III is shot from much closer, right inside his crazy fucked up head. The result is confusing and not a little unsettling, with multiple depps fighting over his possible futures. It's really fucked up. Really. The bit where he rams himself through with a sword over half a peanut is a pretty salty metaphor for a mind going awry in a world gone awryer.

Every single character ends up being so deceitful that it pretty rapidly becomes rather difficult to figure out what's going on. The result, not of deficiencies in storytelling, but of an ever-shifting web of self-interest, deceit, confused loyalties, barely concealed animosities, alliances of conveniences, Machiavellian posturing, and god knows what else, which eventually makes the film feel as though it's about to collpase in on itself like a Black Hole with an eye patch. In a good way.

The beautiful world of lustrous blue seas and the freedom they suggest of the first two films is supplanted a filthy night-time of raging hostile waters in which the only calm is the calm of the purposeless dead.

Oh yeah, and it starts with a kid getting hanged. a scene from which 95% of directors would doubtless pussy out, but which here is unflinchingly carried through. And people die relentlessly. all the way through. Really horrible shit happens to them.

The film's moral universe is fantastically ambiguous. Whilst it buys into the romantic dream of the pirate as a free-living, free-thinking, lovable rascals, it's notable that none of the actual pirates do any actual pirating, being far too concerned with various romantic quests. On more than one occaision in the trilogy the crews confront a captain for his failure to, y'know, attack ships and steal shit. The one consistent baddie is the rapaciously capitalist and imperialist East India Company, whose influence easily dwarfs that of the state as it fights for commercial and maritime hegemony. Even there, old-fashioned ideals of fair-play, romantic love and self-sacrifice can trump the prevailing ill wind.

All of this falls to pieces if you stick around after the credits and watch the, frankly awful epilogue. So I suggest you don't.

Meanwhile, in the world of film of a less piratical nature, I am one of the, what? actors? models? bodies? in Vita Hewison's beautiful, inventive and mesmerising animation Fold which can be seen here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

like taking a theatre of physicality and poetry from a baby

My posting opportunities are currently limited due to the big old pile of empty space on my desk where my laptop used to be. But i want to point to the sad news that the Wrestling School has lost their funding (check out the blind fucking stupidity of some of the commenters limboing under the already seriously low bar set by the usual standard on the Guardian Theatre blogs. The internet - now everyone can spout shit from a position of absolute ignorance! In public!) Barker is, as one of the commentators notes, a man with a staggering sense of both entitlement and persecution. But then i guess being probably the most important playwright of the last 50 years who can't get his new work staged by pretty much any theatre in the country while David Hare idly wonders what Colin Powell said to the French and calls it a play at the National will probably do that to you.

Of course, he's not helped by the way that he sets himself in opposition to the theatrical establishment, and so, no doubt, he ruffles a fair few feathers. This is one of the problems with the theatre world - if you think something's shit, you can't say so because someone, somewhere is going to get upset and that someone is at somepoint going to end up being a gatekeeper and you're going to end up on the outside. (This is one of the reasons I love working for Noises Off at the NSDF - it encourages artists to talk openly about each other's work, and to not be so fucking precious about it when someone doesn't like their own work.) If, like Barker, you think everything is shit, indeed, that the very foundations on which almost all work produced today are built are shit, then you're bound to find yourself with few friends, and so the possibilities for staging and funding your work are going to be limited.

Thing is, what if he's right?

[edit - as Dan Bye rightly points out, Barker hasn't actually lost a regular source of funding, but not been awarded funding that he has in the past regularly received, if that makes sense. ]