The Author

In the final 15 minutes, The Author is revealed for what it has really been all along: a daring act of self-flagellation by Crouch on behalf of provocative art and controversial artists.

Tim Crouch ’s The Author is a bitter little pill, too heavily sugared and something of a kill or cure.

Up until the final 15 minutes it’s a curiosity, an experiment for experimentation’s sake. We, the audience, are both stage and set dressing. Adrian , the archetypal gushing theatre enthusiast, speaks up from among our ranks, encouraging conversation, an exchange of views. Other performers, including Crouch himself, playing himself, reveal themselves in our midst one by one. Between them they recount a story surrounding a fictional production staged by Crouch.

Except they aren’t just relating their experiences of this notional production: an in-yer-face affair crammed with violence and abuse that has caused audience members both to walk and to pass out. They’re apologising for their part in it. Apologising to us, the audience, because theatre makers are beholden to their audiences. They need us, the consumers of their art, to understand their intentions and to forgive them.

And until those final 15 minutes that’s all The Author is: an acknowledgement of the absolute power the audience wields, seasoned with interrogations of the audience’s ingrained reluctance to exercise that power, to intervene in events onstage, however reprehensible they find them. It’s all necessary to prime us for what comes next, but it takes its sweet time doing so, and in the meantime it all feels a bit insular, a bit inconsequential, even a bit masturbatory: the mores of the theatre being discussed, by theatre makers, through the medium of theatre, using a fictional piece of theatre as an allegory, to theatregoers.

Then comes the turnaround, and in those final 15 minutes The Author is revealed for what it has really been all along: a daring act of self-flagellation by Crouch on behalf of provocative art and controversial artists. Personally present, without the ablative armour of a fictional character, and having questioned for over an hour why audiences choose not to act against onstage villainy, the playwright reveals himself as the worst kind of villain, or at least the most easily demonised. There’s nothing insular or inconsequential about his closing monologue, delivered to a pitch-dark auditorium – and yes, people sitting close to him do plead with him to stop, though not forcefully enough for him actually to do so.

The medicinal value of this bitter little pill remains to be seen. If next month The Stage reports mass walk-outs and stage invasions at Sarah Kane revivals, we’ll know it had some effect; but I suspect the thick sugary coating may well interfere with the active ingredients, and a few patients will undoubtedly refuse to swallow the pill at all.

Tim Crouch and Adrian Howells
Tim Crouch and Adrian Howells in The Author. Photo © Stephen Cummiskey

Tim Crouch
Tim Crouch in The Author. Photo © Stephen Cummiskey

Comments

3 comments. Add your own »

  1. Andrew Smith says:

    I find this a very odd review. I heard much more to this play. A sugar coated pill? The sugar coating wore off after just a few minutes. And revealed a taste that was rich and challenging. There is so much more to the character of Adrian than a gushing theatre enthusiast. The stories about a theatre show were about more than a theatre show.And then the layers began to appear. A long time before the last 15 minutes… Again and again. More was revealed. I listened harder. Looked harder. And thought harder than I’ve ever done in a theatre before.

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  1. [...] The Author, which I felt pretty favourably about when I reviewed it for the London Theatre Blog, Crouch and his three co-performers repeatedly encourage the audience to contribute. We’re [...]

  2. [...] The Author, which I felt pretty favourably about when I reviewed it for the London Theatre Blog, Crouch and his three co-performers repeatedly encourage the audience to contribute. We’re asked, [...]

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Info and Credits

Tim Crouch's The Author is on at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs until the 24th of October 2009.

For tickets and further information visit the Royal Court website.

Read Tim Crouch's brief overview of The Author, and listen to him in converation with the two directors of the piece, Karl James and Andy Smith in the Royal Court podcast.

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