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The Author Reviews

It’s about us, what we see, and what we choose to see…this is a dazzling theatrical experience that lets nobody off the hook, opening our eyes to what should be blindingly obvious: we all have a choice.

With a deft touch, Crouch reminds us of the risks of live performance, and questions the traditional division between performers and spectators.

The Author is like a series of sheets being pulled away, but being slowly, almost imperceptibly, withdrawn rather than simply whipped aside. At a certain point the audience begins to be aware that the play has ceased to be a dissection of the theatre-going experience and has become something else. It has become an exploration of how extreme and disturbing material can infiltrate the minds and lives of those who come in contact with it. It explores how the act of writing and staging something, of appropriating the stories of others, can infect people. The play that Crouch and the two actors describe is about conflict and abuse in an unnamed country, and it has left a residue.

The Author is by turns funny, twee, exciting, unnerving and dull, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

For 15 or so ghastly minutes, it seems as though events unfolding in the Royal Court’s smaller performance space will be riper and more self-consciously “theatrical” than if the ghosts of Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson had gathered for a catch-up chat in the bar downstairs.

The idea that spectatorship involves responsibility is pointed, while the production is audaciously conceived. So why doesn’t it work? In part because we’re far too compliant an audience, but also because the forceful interactivity is a sham, and the cast ignore the interventions they claim to solicit. It has more to say about creative arrogance than audience complicity.

Our responses to cultural input can be strange and complex. We learn at an early age to distinguish real from “pretend”, yet we relish theatre because sharing time and space with performers makes the experience more “real”. And what about verbatim or other fact-based theatre? Or fictional drama staged after research into real-life analogues of characters? And what is it that we get from theatre? Entertainment and escape? Confrontation and challenge?….This is not audience participation; it is the audience at once being the theatre and interrogating it.

Unlike most pieces about theatre, The Author is at once sharply satirical and coolly thought-provoking…..with so much complacency about the value of the arts knocking around these days, this kind of teasing, immersive examination of theatre’s sustaining assumptions is hugely welcome.

The Author is perhaps Crouch’s most elegant show to date: intimate, wrong-footing and highly moral. For what he shows, by putting himself in the hot seat as a male creator and abuser, is the potential for abuse heightened by today’s technology. The easy access of images, at a click, havs made people more vulnerable. But what he also shows is that we have a choice as to whether or not to act on our impulses.

The Author, the latest chapter in Tim Crouch’s ongoing theatrical experiment, provides an evening that is both frustrating and compelling in equal measure.

**** If your idea of good theatre is actors up there doing there stuff and an audience out their sitting quietly or laughing uproariously when someone’s trousers fall down this is not for you…If however you are willing to be subject to a more unusual theatrical experience it might be right up your street. It was up mine.

***** The writing is subtly brilliant, the sense of moral responsibility and exploration even greater. And because of its unusual form, it doesn’t let the audience off the hook either.

Although the geography is less appropriate, since Sloane Square and the King’s Road are over 300 miles away rather than fewer yards, Tim Crouch’s metatheatrical play about plays still packs a real punch.

This is a play about the insidious effects of extreme violence in theatre: on the writer, on actors, and on the audience, playing with this old device to new effect. The Author brings horror unflinchingly into the room, seating it next to us, forcing us to look it in the face and accept a Malteser afterwards.