Sunday, 29 September 2013


I don't really call myself as a theatre critic, mostly because it's not my actual job title, party because what the last few weeks have taught me is that OH MY GOD about 75 per cent of everybody who does identify themself as a theatre critic (be it paid print, free online, whatever) seems to have become locked in an almost permanent naval gaze over the issue of their own relevance and What The Future Holds.

There was a conference I didn't go to marking 100 years of the Critics' Circle in which this seemed to be the only subject of discussion, endlessly reiterated. And then there's a near constant stream of chatter about it generally - Mark Shenton's blog on The Stage's website is locked into a permanent state of fretting over this very issue, while a large proportion of the online writing community seem to ponder to excess what 'the future' of criticism should be...

Now, the maddening thing about all this is that it probably will all bear fruit and prove to have been enormously valid and etc. But honestly, I have never come across another profession that's even a fraction as self absorbed, and while I'm possibly in the enviable position of having a reasonably secure job that isn't necessarily saddled with particularly high intellectual expectations (ie nobody really cares what I think), it strikes me rather selfishly that my notional peers would all write a lot more stuff that I myself would be interested in reading if they stopped worrying about their relevance and just got on with it.

If you're not a critic because you think writing about stuff is fun then you're obviously doing the wrong thing, and surely that's all there is to it. I'd consider it a terrible lapse if something I wrote wasn't reasonably entertaining, but JFC I don't sit there fretting about my relevance - too much discourse on that sort of thing puts you one step away from being a fucking brand manager.

The oldest living creature on the planet is a tortoise called Jonathan: he was born in the Seychelles in 1832, moving to the island of St Helena in the late nineteenth century, where he's lived in the governor's mansion ever since. There are photos of him

Here is a photo of him during the Boer War

Here is a photo of him being sat on by some Edwardians

He's not, in some ways, even the most exciting tortoise - Timothy (below), who died in 2004, aged 161, was a Royal Navy ship's mascot and the last survivor of the Crimean War.

Adwita (below) who died in 2006 may well have been 255 years old, living as a governor's pet in India through the bulk of the British Raj.

And of course there's the famous Tu'i Malila, the tortoise given to the Tonga royal family by James Cook in 1777 - he died in 1965, and is pictured in his currently preserved form below.

I'm genuinely not just scrabbling for a horrible allegory here because I am genuinely fucking blown away by these creatures, which I only really started reading about yesterday. But it does strike me that these shelled sages have had really much more interesting lives than any of us, but you know, they don't give a shit, they just get on with it, and frankly every critic or whatever who frets about their relevance in this world should consider the fact that Jonathan the tortoise didn't get where he is today by having some sort of big existential mither over what his continued role is in the mid-nineteenth-to-early-twentieth century. He is Jonathan the fucking tortoise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, you're back! I just thought I'd take a punt on my bookmark and there you were for a little while, come back again!