Sunday, 27 October 2013

Titus Andronicus And Professional Wrestling

I drove on clear roads at relatively high pace in my precious Jag from home to Stratford-upon-Avon. I walked between the raindrops toward the theatre but deviated to buy a bag of chips which I then ate as I walked by the river. I disposed of the chip paper responsibly. Thus fortified I entered the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and enjoyed a glass of white in the bar before I took up my standing position in the Swan auditorium - my ticket had cost all of £5. The programme contained an article by the matchless Jonathan Bate and the show in question was my old favourite Titus Andronicus. Professor Bate has these wise words,
Critics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could not cope with such incongruity. Its affront to stylistic decorum  was thought to be on a par with the play's shocking lack of respect for the principle of poetic justice, in which the evil are punished and the good. are duly rewarded. In our time, though, we have become sceptical about easy divisions between good and evil, black and white. 
Perhaps this modern scepticism explains the success not only of this RSC revival but also the National Theatre's recent revisiting of the misanthropic Timon of Athens. Two under-performed plays which catch the disenchanted Cameroon zeitgeist. And this thought leads me, as these things often do, to professional wrestling and the works of Roland Barthes. All of this was brought into plain sight on television this morning as I watched Daniel Bryan launch himself over the ropes onto the conveniently assembled Shield before springing back into the ring to pin Randy Orton.

Then these same people wax indignant because wrestling is a stage-managed sport (which ought, by the way, to mitigate its ignominy). The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees. (Barthes, Mythologies, 1957, trans Lavers 1984)
So, put plainly I enjoyed this Titus thanks to a cocktail of a fast car, some fast food, some English criticism, some French philosophy and some American grapple. It's good to be back.

The Manchester Rambler

You know how a song sometimes lodges itself in your mind and won't go away. How you wish you could sing, if only so that you could sing that one song late at night to a rapt bar. Here is my current song. It tells a story.