Outstanding show exploring voyeurism in art
This article is from 2010.
In a festival with a good deal of verbatim theatre, Tim Crouch’s new play deals in a timely fashion with the difference between pure reality and authenticity. The tale told is self evidently untrue, yet its truth feels increasingly more believable than reality. At each step the audience is asked to collude in an untruth, as audiences inevitably do, so the fiction we cooperate with becomes overwhelmingly unsettling.
Crouch carries this off by placing himself and three actors within an auditorium with no stage, only an audience from which the performers carry out a ‘conversation’ about several events surrounding a production they have recently completed. From a ‘friend’ of the theatre involved in an auditorium accident on the final night, to an actor whose stage character begins to control him, to a young actress torn between commercial reward and serious theatre, and on to the eponymous scribe, each tests our response to an increasingly shocking series of events. We are repeatedly asked if what is being described is too much, but continue to assent.
Crouch’s piece examines the forms of voyeurism involved in art, describing research that involves watching endless acts of violence on the net, and interviewing victims of abuse for the sake of representing them as ‘real’. In manipulating reality, the piece makes the point that the simple recording of an event, be it violence or pornography, has become so commonplace that we are somehow cauterised, preserved from its flesh and blood incarnation, yet even describing it verbally inside the ‘safe’ confines of a studio theatre can have an appalling effect. Seldom in recent years has the unwritten contract between actor and audience been so powerfully exploited. Good theatre is manipulative, but not necessarily true, and this compellingly performed play knows it.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 29 Aug, times vary, £15–£17 (£11–£12).