Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish (verlaine) wrote,
Cityish Alt-ish Fortyish
verlaine

Thoughts on The Alchemist

Last night I went to see Ben Jonson's play The Alchemist with my best friend the_alchemist (beat that!) and this morning I dusted off my crappy skippy Discman so I could listen to the fab new Jarvis album on my way to work. So life is good.

The Alchemist isn't, as far as I can see, deep and meaningful in any way. What it is, is a very funny quickfire farce about three amoral conmen, changing accents and disguises at breakneck speed to divest a parade of gullible idiots at their door of all their money. Despite some inevitable pop-culturisation from the director, the play is actually pretty amusing in and of itself: I guess locking a man in a fetid privy and forgetting about him never goes out of style. It was also a joy to see Simon Russell Beale in the flesh - the rumour is he might be the greatest theatre actor of our time, and I'm not about to gainsay it.

As interesting, though, as the play was being able to turn my head, once the lights are up, and see the sea of greying heads and well-dressed bodies making up the audience. Barring a few sulky-looking pressganged teenage daughters, even a hip and hyped production like this is entirely frequented by the middle-aged from the middle-classes. It was almost a surprise that they chose to applaud at the curtain instead of rattling their jewellery. And this is my problem with theatre: I *shouldn't* be one of the youngest and poorest people in the audience, and if I am, something is badly rotten in the state of Denmark.

Of course I wrote off ballet and opera as irrelevant a long time ago, but I'm sad I might have to do it to theatre as well. It's a medium I want to like, but the more I think about it the less I think it's justifiable. It's way too trapped in its tradition, way too obsessed with its past, and obviously being kept on life support by cash injections from rich smug arbiters of what constitutes worthwhile art. Whether or not the theatre cares about attracting the young, do the young care about being attracted by the theatre? I wish I could call to mind lots of examples of young creative people putting on plays outside the edifice of the establishment. But I don't think that's what young creative people do any more.

Which brings me on to a bugbear of mine. Just why are people so down on this medium that you're participating in right now, i.e. blogging? There's this prevalent assumption that all this is worthless procrastination and idleness, perpetrated by people who either have no talent or else are wasting theirs. This I dispute. While an flist 450-strong does not equate to an audience that size, I can be fairly confident that three figures of people read anything I choose to write. That's better than a lot of plays, especially given that I'm one person and not a company. Sure, I don't make any money from this, but I do get paid in kind, when I read the journals that all my interesting friends write, and isn't that purer somehow than slaving in an office for an hour or two to exchange for a book, CD or show? I love being here and it *is* art, beautiful, democratic, and non-elitist, pleasantly lacking in the objectionable distinction between the creatives and the passive consumers of the audience.

Interactivity without any frontiers is the future of human endeavour. Why so slow to embrace it?
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