I was fortunate to catch at the Guardian Open Weekend, an In-Conversation between the stalwart drama critic Michael Billington and the playwright David Hare, in a role-reversal where the critic had the centre stage. Notable was the generosity of spirit by one of UK's best-known living playwrights to play the second fiddle. The warmth and respect that the two men held for each other was apparent throughout, adding a vibrant atmosphere to the day
Eagerly poised with my notepad and pen – yes I wrote in longhand not text/tweet-speak, I wanted to capture some of the nuggets to share with the participants of the Art of Critical Writing. Here are five points condensed for the soon-to-be critics:
1. All writing is a form of self-discipline defined by a deadline. It is also a form of 'self-entertainment' Kingsley Amis opined. So while writing one needs to be engaged and, better still, 'joyfully' engaged. If you are boring to yourself, you will definitely bore the reader too.
2. The role of the critic is to assess and interpret what is going on in the choreographer's mind.
3. Put the work into a context. How does the piece fit in with the previous creation history of the choreographer/dancer. What are the maker's preoccupations and obsessions?
4. Express your views with passion – put your weight behind the artist. As the British theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan, once said: 'Go to see Waiting for Godot, if you have fifteen shillings; if you have thirty, see it twice.'
5. Write clearly, vividly and succinctly.
And in a nutshell, more words from Michael Billington: ‘Good criticism informs, illuminates and entertains. Bad criticism is lazy, ill-written and prejudicial.’