On After the War
Thursday 28th May 2009
I just started reading, with Pirate Dog curled up at my feet, DJ Taylor’s After the War, a critical book about the relationship between the novel and England since 1945. Very early on, he describes how he was first turned on to reading Victorian novels when he experienced “something that I can only describe as an actual physical thrill” when he discovered the pleasure of reading Dickens. Isn’t it a similar sensation that draws us again and again back to the theatre? And yet most critics, and commentators, write very little about the actual sensations, from rapt excitement to excruciating boredom that we actually experience in the darkness of the stalls. One recent exception is a blog by Matt Trueman. Since most critics are perfectly happy to point out when performers are underpowered, their reticence about their own feelings is patently unfair. Instead, most prefer to convey a sense of critical omniscience, when the truth is very far from god-like. On the other hand, given the lack of space is most publications, do we really want critics to talk about themselves rather than the show?