The Event

There are words on a screen.

These words do not reveal the character of the writer, nor do they give away the writer’s sexual identity, gender identity, racial identity, age, mood or environment. There are a few possible assumptions: since they are writing in English, they must be capable of communicating through this language. Hints in their use of grammar and spelling may imply a certain level of education, or differentiate between American English, English English or perhaps other versions of English.

It is possible that a skilled writer would be able to disguise these elements of personality and self, but this is not necessarily desirable, nor does this intention signify any measure of objectivity. Indeed, in certain situations, this would be an act of deliberate deceit that avoids considerations of critical subjectivity and bias.

The words are the screen are a review of a performance called The Event, which was staged at the Assembly Roxy during the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe. So far, the writer – who will now insist that they are identified by the title of ‘the critic’ – has not followed the familiar format of the review.

The words now introduce a reflection on the introduction, from the critic’s perspective. The subversion – they call it this with a slight concern that this term suggests that the words are more politically engaged and sophisticated than they appear – of the critical format is a deliberate attempt to imitate an aspect of The Event‘s dramaturgy. The Event does not have a plot, only a man on stage who describes his actions. This actor – and his words make clear that he is an actor and he is speaking a script – occasionally ponders wider social issues, but mainly addresses on the audience on the subject of his – and their – presence – in a specific location at a specific time.

The critic will now admit that they love the opportunity to play with the nature of the review. They consider that this has probably been done before, and with direct reference to The Event. However, they conclude, it is too good a chance to miss.

By reading these words, the critic hopes that the reader will experience something similar to the audience who attended The Event. The critic desires to replicate the aesthetics of The Event.

Having provided a justification, the critic finds themselves at a loss. The main point has already been made, and there seems to be little more of value than can be added.

The previous paragraph may be a true expression of the critic’s thought, or it may be a strategy to intrigue the reader. Equally, it may have simply annoyed the reader, who has decided to reject the category of reader and has become an ex-reader.

The previous paragraph may be a true expression of the critic’s thought, or it may be a strategy to intrigue the reader. Equally, it may have simply annoyed the reader, who has decided to reject the category of reader and has become an ex-reader.

Do you see what the critic did there? Does it highlight the artificiality of the review process? Does it contrast the nature of the spectator at the theatre with the nature of a reader of a review? One is stuck, generally, in the middle of a row and cannot easily leave (although they can and do). The latter can escape easily enough.

The critic has spent some time considering whether to include an image at this point. It would break up the text, and give an illusion of structure. However, realising that they would have to comment on the choice, and unable to find anything sufficiently abstract not to create a juxtaposition, the critic abandons this idea, only to apologise to the reader for the unbroken text.

The critic now feels comfortable enough to wander from austere descriptions of either thoughts or their manifestations on the screen to make a few remarks about intentionality. Indeed, the critic believes that most readers have already given up, either having got the point and not feeling the need to pursue the article through its subsequent variations on the theme, or in simple frustration at what appears to be a self-indulgent trawl through the critic’s wool-gathering thoughts, the kind of monologue that crops up whenever they sit down to meditate.

The question of whether The Event is a deconstruction of a performance crosses the mind of the critic. This is dismissed, since deconstruction is often used to describe any experimentation with a familiar medium. The common example is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen, which is often called a deconstruction of the superhero. The critic is adamant that Watchmen is, rather, the application of naturalism to a genre that is known for its fascination with exotic embodied fantasy. Deconstruction, the critic decides, is a critical process that identifies the innate contradictions in a text: something about Mahayana Buddhism and a rhetorical investigation that exposes the fiction of the permanent self. The Event does take the constituent elements of the performance and lays them out in front of the audience but, the critic concludes, this is closer to what they now call post-dramatic theatre.

The critic is now stuck. This was probably the biggest idea that the critic had about The Event. It would feel trivial to follow this up with some kind of emotional response or qualitative grading. This is not what the show was about, is about, might be about.

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