“I have the choice to continue. I have the choice to stop.”
The Author Tim Crouch @ Bristol Old Vic Tue 28 Sep – Sat 2 Oct *****
Performed within it’s audience, THE AUTHOR tells the story of another play: a violent, shocking and abusive play written by a playwright called Tim Crouch. It charts the effect that the play had on the two actors who performed it, the playwright who wrote it and an audience member who watched it.
Somewhere around the halfway point of ‘The Author’ in one of the breaks in the actor’s monologues I find myself watching a woman with red earrings who face gurns and twists in interesting ways as she reacts to the room. An older woman and her son on the other seating bank keep looking at and pointing at me and the friend I am sat with. In any other show this attention might be a sign that the play is failing to keep the audience’s attention; in this case it means anything but.
Tim Crouch’s new play, which premiered at the Royal Court in 2009, starts with a brilliant conceit. Two banks of seating face each other in the space. Two sets of audience staring each other out. From amongst the audience emerge a theatre obsessed audience member, a playwright and two actors. Each one unfurling the story of a shocking play we never see but which manages to pack a punch none the less. Theres is more at stake than ticket sales however as we are let into the private story of how the play affects the lives of those who work on it and see it, often in shocking and disasterous ways.
Given the flurry of shocking and/or violent plays in the ‘in yer face’ years of the nineties it seems strange that there has not before been a play to examine theatre’s relationship and responsibility when showing us the worst of human nature. In these perfectly formed and interconnected monologues we are transported to dark places, with the characters constantly asking our consent ‘Can I go on? Is this okay?’: consent which we as an audience give without knowing exactly where this might be leading. A fact wonderfully exploited as the play reaches it’s conclusion.
The actors (Tim Crouch, Chris Goode, Vic Llewellen and Esther Smith), from their places amongst us, give strong poetic performances that create vividly events and plays that we never see in the flesh and make us feel simultaneously as though they are just like us and yet sometimes completely strange and apart. We come to really care for them and belive in them in a way most traditional plays would kill to achieve.
As with Tim Crouch’s previous plays for adults (‘An Oak Tree’ and ‘My Arm’ ) the theatrical concept, whilst imaginative and new, is never persuded at the expense of the human story being told. Rather the two support and enhance each other to create a truly unmissable evening of powerful theatrical experience that leaves us all, theatre makers and audiences alike with much food for thought.
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