Call and Response – The Georgia Straight
Our last Call and Response sparked a very lively conversation between Mark Robins from Gay Vancouver and Sebastien. At the end of the online conversation Mark suggested we respond to Colin Thomas’ review in the Georgia Straight. We’ve taken the bait.
Here’s a link to the review in case you haven’t read it
I’m always excited and nervous about getting a review from Colin. He is very honest and I tend to agree with him more than any other reviewer in the city. This means that basically his opinion means a lot to me.
Overall I agreed with a lot of what he said about the show. It did however bring up a few thoughts in terms of how you make theatre relevent and timely. The Olympics were in February, it’s now August. The play was written during the Olympics and it takes about that long to produce a show. It wouldn’t have been possible to make this comment any sooner due to the timeline of theatre. I personally haven’t yet seen a play that comments directly on the Olympics so for me this does seem timely and relevent. I wish it could have been even more so but I’m not sure how given the timing issues.
Now one bit of coming to my own defence – the audience moves in a very small area in this show and this was one of the things Colin didn’t like about the production. One of the reasons why I did this was to try to give a sense of proximity – the Olympic events are right next to a tent city, which is right next to the Mayors home etc. These elements existing side by side for me gives a clear idea of the way it felt to be in Vancouver during the Olympics. The other reason was because we have had lots of complaints in past years about our promenade plays being too long. This was my attempt to cut down the walk time so that the play would be shorter without compromising the script. This is something I will explore more in future promenade shows.
I appreciate some of the kind words Colin said about the show and given that he’s a tough critic with very high standards I’m happy to just have my work taken seriously and evaluated by a professional.
Of course I disagree with some of his comments. First, sophistication was never on the agenda. There is a long history of successful political plays and playwrights who relish in simplicity and juvenility. There’s no law that states that good satire has to be sophisticated. Banksy comes to mind. We see this in pop culture with Stewart and Colbert and South Park. We see it in theatre history with playwrights like Dario Fo (one of Italy’s most prolific and internationally produced playwrights). Sophisticated political theatre tends to be very dry and cerebral, a la David Hare. This is not the crowd I’m gunning for. Brecht was also rather sophisticated but his plays are rarely, if ever, funny. So sophistication would negate my audience and undermine the fun and frivolity of my piece. Our Robin Hood is more of a giant political cartoon with a touch of humanity than it is some sort of deep, profound meditation on capitalism and poverty.
As far as adding new insights regarding the Olympics this wasn’t a goal of mine either. Although it may have arguably made for a stronger play. I wrote it as a reflection on what had happened and a reminder of all the promises that were made that weren’t kept regarding cleaning up our streets, a reminder that maybe we’re now a “World Class City” but the problems facing us haven’t changed. A little Olympic time capsule, if you will, performed a mere six months after the fact. Hardly an age ago given that artists are prone to reaching much farther back into history to find fodder for their work.
The fact that Robin Hood steals from society’s elite is an obvious update to the myth. It has nothing to do with them making more than actors. I’m not sure where that comment comes from. Some Hollywood actors are among the most ridiculously wealthy people I can think of. And many don’t take the opportunity to be philanthropic at all. Not to mention the ones who are card-carrying republicans and don’t believe in any form of social welfare.