City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Author Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 07 August 2010

Tim Crouch and audience
Show details
Traverse Theatre
News From Nowhere presents a Royal Court Theatre Production
Running time: 
Tim Crouch (author), Karl James, a. smith (directors), Matt Drury (lighting designer), Ben and Max Ringham (music and sound designers)
Tim Crouch, Chris Goode, Vic Llewellyn, Esther Smith

Tim Crouch ought to be classed as one of England’s National Treasures. Creating work of searching intensity, Tim Crouch develops arguments many of us almost certainly have in our own heads or may share with others, but takes these further with a lucidity and integrity that is often painful to watch.

The theatre director Pam Brighton has spoken of Willy Russell’s ability to "speak for England", which is undeniably true, but Crouch takes the task further, trying, it seems, at times to think for England too.

The outcomes are inevitably variable. The Author is a piece of imaginative reflection whose bravery is intermittently undercut by the situation (both literal and theatrical).

To explain; the audience enter to discover traverse staging without a traverse, i.e., no apparent space for actors. Their space, of course, is also ours; the gap between a theatrical presentation and its audience has been crucially foreshortened. As performers emerge into their roles from among the seated punters, purpose is also uncomfortably revealed.

Crouch’s Author contemplates in extremis the place his search for reasons in the midst of contemporary mayhem and savagery has brought him. The collateral damage inherent in satisfying the need for sensation and satiation of audiences inured to daily dosages of brutality and failure to recognise complicity in these processes push hard at the boundaries of theatre, and for a couple of audience members during the performance seen, tolerance levels as well.

Crouch beats his head against the limits of theatre’s "fourth wall", and invites us to contemplate the result. This, it has to be said, although not always pretty, also doesn’t always work. It’s certainly not for want of trying, and the cast of four do a splendid job of holding together some more than ephemeral moments.

Plays within plays, which in essence is what this piece is, unavoidably stretch actors asked to play both characters and those characters as actors - schizophrenia becomes a particularly difficult double bind. There is, of course, no exit from such a version of the prisoner’s dilemma, and the cast make the most they can of its challenges. It makes for a challenging and at times difficult eighty minutes in a particularly enclosed space, edgier, this reviewer felt, than at least some audience members had anticipated. The simple courage and integrity shown still made those minutes uniquely precious.

5-28 August (various times; see Fringe Programme for details)

Sunday - Thursday £15 (£11 concs , £6 unemployed), Friday-Saturday, £17 (£12 concs)