FRINGE REVIEW – The Author, Royal court

*****

By Emily P

The Author is the latest work by playwright and Fringe fave Tim Crouch. As he is known for non-traditional staging and playing with the form, one may have already heard that Crouch’s latest piece of theatre takes place within its own audience at the Traverse this year.
 
We enter into the already intimate space of Traverse Two to find there is no stage simply seating arranged to non-threateningly allow the audience to look at one another. Something quite different is going on here, we think. We are right.
 
I imagine that every performance will differ slightly and that the effect of the audience’s reaction to those moments inviting vague participation could change the atmosphere or tone to a small degree each time. Do not panic yet – unless you’re sitting directly beside an actor the requirement for contribution is minimal, all questions are effectively rhetorical, however they are made to sound, and opinions or discussion from the audience do not in fact feature in the narrative.
 
There is a script and a play; more of a disintegrated study, on an invented play and some of its consequences for the actors, the Authors (Crouch) and one of the audience members involved. There is a substantial amount of interesting material there – musing on violence within art and drama, the craft used by the actor in order to become a character capable of brutality, the exploitation of real people’s experiences by artists in order that they can replicate horrific acts mainly for our, the audiences’, consumption. All of these threads are worthy of discussion and do benefit from being taken out of a traditionally staged presentation.
 
However, the scripted references to the Royal Court where this play was first performed last year, removes our Edinburgh audience significantly from any immediate setting within our ranks. We feel the instant the first reference is made that we are watching a play, written for another time and place and so directly we are released from too much intimacy and involvement with our players.
 
When the actors ask is it ok? Do you want me to continue? They forget they are talking to an Edinburgh audience – of course we want them to continue, we want our money’s worth! So it is perhaps a little unfair that these questions really function as methods of revealing our complicity, as an audience, in the reproduction of violence or the explicit retelling of distasteful truths. We asked for more so we shouldn’t complain when we get it.
 
At the end of the narrative The Author tells us ‘you won’t forgive me anyway’; making the mistake he previously warned against – of judging his audience, judging us. Was he right about you?

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