Saturday, 12 June 2010

Arts cuts - blogs - why I've stopped reading The Guardian

The ‘Prime Minister’ David Cameron (a name that is featuring far too often here) made a speech last week in Milton Keynes about the impending austerity measures. They will be painful. They will affect every single one of us and their impact on British life will be felt for decades to come. Woe, desolation and doom. What hope is there for the artist in such a climate? Well, what this particular artist feels he has been doing lately is sitting around waiting for the chop, imagining a future in which he is condemned to a life of drudgery, all his aspirations in a pile on the floor. I glanced, the other day, at the blog of the theatre maker Chris Goode and saw that he is busy, his latest venture being a performance that you can book for your own home. You can pay for the event in advance via Paypal, or in cash on the night. Very enterprising. David Cameron (who, as he said in a speech last year, ‘gets’ enterprise) would be proud of him. There was also a little note in the right hand column of Goode’s blog, encouraging readers to make donations, very welcome in these lean, recession-hit times.

I don’t know why I am saying this (which is just the kind of self-deprecating admission I should try to curb – readers want confidence in their blogger). Very well, I do know why I am saying this. I occasionally look at other people’s blogs, and looking at them is precisely what has, until very recently, deterred me from starting my own.

I used occasionally to read The Guardian’s various blogs, and when I’m overseas I tend to read the online edition of The Guardian to keep up with events, though I’ve practically stopped looking at The Guardian since it gave me a 2 star review for The Poof Downstairs. Childish of me, you might say (you can say, actually, by posting a comment at the end of this post). I stopped reading Time Out several years ago (“I don’t give a damn about Time Out. Time Out’s a fucking asshole magazine” - Robert de Niro). This was perhaps only an age thing. I found one day that I was no longer part of the young, fashion-led, grab-a-coffee-on-the-way-to-work brigade and therefore didn’t need Time Out any more. Time Out gave me a good review for The Poof Downstairs (four stars and Critics’ Choice) but in spite of that fact I haven’t taken it up again, and won’t.

But other people’s blogs, yes. So I’ve glanced at Goode’s, I’ve looked at The Guardian’s, at Alison Croggon’s Theatre Notes, at Crysse’s blog (only because I was searching for reviews of The Poof Downstairs and found one on her absolutely marvelous blog) and I’ve looked at a few others and, well, I don’t mind them at all. This blog of mine could, it’s just occurred to me, be a blog that reviews blogs, though I imagine there are several blogs doing that already. Goode’s blog, then. Although I’ve never met CG in person, nor, for that matter, seen any of his work, I am quite sure that he’s a thoroughly good egg. He certainly comes across as one in his blog. I was drawn to his blog originally through searching for reviews of our show Tough time, nice time (premiered at the Barbican in 2008 and published by Oberon Books). His was a good review, I suppose, but it contained a hurtful criticism of my performance. Not just hurtful but, on examination, nonsensical. I should have left a comment on his blog at the time, expressing my hurt in no uncertain terms, but I didn’t want to be exposed as the kind of theatre maker who searches the internet for reviews of his work and then gets upset reading them. This is what he wrote: ‘The only unbelievable thing in the play is that Jon Haynes’s highly contained, uptight character has ever been fist-fucked.’ I had to read this sentence a few times before I realized what was wrong with it. It implies that I should have played the character as though he’d been fist-fucked, or in such a way that the audience could believe that he’d been fist-fucked. How could I have done that? Perhaps it might have worked if I’d spoken my lines in a sort of husky drawl, my bowels trailing behind me. It’s a bit like saying you should play a murderer as if he’s a murderer (with a club foot, hare lip and a bottle marked ‘Poison’ in one hand). People who appear contained and uptight, it is suggested, could not possibly have been fist-fucked. Well, I’ve been fist-fucked (only once, in Berlin). Do I look as though I have? I’ve no idea. The truth actually might be the reverse of what CG implies, that people who are highly contained and uptight are precisely the kind of people who do get fist-fucked, who in fact need to get fist-fucked, if only to seek temporary relief from their uptightness. All of which goes to show (does it?) that I shouldn’t engage with reviews.


  1. Hello Jon -- I've found this rather late I'm afraid -- just want to say: you're absolutely right, of course, my comment is stupid in both the ways you say it is. There are nuances we could explore, but actually they're not worth speaking of. Anyway, I didn't mean it hurtfully, I promise. I think I was mostly just projecting a broad general incredulity at fistfucking per se: an incredulity that, in my case at least, has in no way been alleviated by watching plenty of documentary evidence on video. I mean, hours and hours. The more I see the less I believe. Perhaps I'll spend half term in Berlin.

    pip pip, Cx

  2. Chris, yours is my first ever comment, so thanks for that. I have to confess that I lied about being f-fucked in Berlin. I only said it to bolster my argument. I was recently invited to be f-f'd, but the more we discussed it the more it began to sound like a surgical procedure that I didn't want. But don't let that put you off going to Berlin.