Sunday 18 February 2018

Seeking critical acclaim ... from the public

Aedn Gormley

'When I first read it a few years ago I laughed out loud." So says director Lynne Parker of Rough Magic's choice of play for this year's Dublin Theatre Festival, The Critic by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

"It just amused me how similar the conversations were in this play, (which is a satirical treatment by Sheridan of his theatre making world) to the conversations we all have now."

Best known as the author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal, Dublin-born Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) was a poet and playwright and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

The Critic was first performed in 1779, and sees the playwright satirising those engaged in the world of theatre in late 18th-Century England. His amusing list of characters includes Fretful Plagiary and fellow critic Sneer.

Lynne feels it is timely for us to ask what is at the role of the theatre industry. Sheridan cleverly makes his arguments through his characters.

"Fretful Plagiary is a bitter and twisted wannabe, and says things like, 'Well you know I wouldn't want a good review from that critic' and I've heard people say that," says Lynne.

Darragh Kelly plays Mr Dangle, who goes straight to the theatre gossip pages in his newspaper ignoring anything that could be about politics or the real world. His wife played by Eleanor Methven can't understand this and is desperately irritated by the intrusion of all of these theatre people who talk about nothing else in her front room.

"She wants theatre that is about something useful, which is of course a debate that everybody is still having now . . . what is the role, what is the function of theatre?"

I asked Lynne if she finds herself having to prove the importance of theatre to people. "Yes, I constantly have to prove it, I have to prove it to the Arts Council, to audiences and I have to prove it to myself."

Well there will of course be critics attending this production and writing their reviews. Lynne never reads reviews while the show is on but will read them afterwards. For her, (and this is a point made in the play), the important verdict is that of the public.

"I know perfectly well when a show is doing well and I also know better than anybody what is wrong with it . . . so I don't need the critic to tell me," she says.

She looks across the water to criticism in Scotland where there is a genuine desire on the part of critics to support the work that is going on.

"I suppose I think that critics in this country need to be a little more responsible and more informed about what they are taking to task and sometimes there can be a lack of care, but on the other hand we all use the relationship with the newspapers, it's very important to us."

Lynne adds that the role of the critic holds great responsibility because what they say appears in print and on the internet. "We are interdependent because this is a record that will be left behind and people will be reading this well into the future."

Well we will see what the critics and, of course, audiences make of The Critic which will see the audience journeying with the cast from The Culture Box in Temple Bar to The Ark. The location almost suggesting, Lynne tells me, that these characters are still hanging around since the 18th Century as if they never left!

"It will be fun and this might be a chance to let our hair down a bit."

Rough Magic Theatre Company presents The Critic by Richard Brinsley Sheridan directed by Lynne Parker as part of The Dublin Theatre Festival. Previews: October 2 and 3; 7pm and 9pm. Dates: October 4, 5 and 8; 12, 7pm and 9pm; October 6 and 13; 6pm and 8pm. Booking: (01) 677 8899/

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun 1-4pm) on RTÉ lyric fm

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