segunda-feira, setembro 04, 2006

O Síndroma de Stendhal (II): A Cat with Nine Lives, por Margareta Sörenson

No segundo texto incluído no dossier especial de aniversário do blog O Melhor Anjo, O Síndroma de Stendhal, a crítica sueca Margareta Sörenson, faz um retrato da situação da crítica no seu país. O texto apresenta reflexões sobre as abordagens aos textos de repertório, o crítica face aos novos meios de publicação, como a internet e os blogs, e dá conta, a partir da sua experiência enquanto directora dos Seminários para Jovens Críticos da Associação Internacional de Críticos de Teatro, do papel que as novas gerações de críticos podem ter para o futuro da crítica.


Sweden is a small country in the north of Europe; that is its population is small with only nine millions inhabitants, while its surface is very large. Most people live in the south and in the areas around Stockholm, the capital, and Göteborg, the second city. In the north the towns are small, and the distances are very far.

Sweden is fairly well known throughout the world for its social welfare, today much closer to the average European standard than the former avant garde position. Maybe it is less well known that Sweden is a country where more people attend a theatre performance every year than a football match. And, since the 70's, there is a decisive politic for cultural events like theatre, dance and music should be available to all Swedes - if living in the far north or not, being a child, a teenager, an adult or a senior. Equally, the last years the discussion has focused a lot on the dominance of male directors, male actors, male playwrights and different plans has been put up to stimulate the presence of women in the landscape of theatre. The growing percentage of immigrants in Sweden, today close to 20 %, rarely shows on stage and therefore this year has been launched as the year of multi-culture, a plan already - three months only passed on the New Year - much criticized for trying to politically control the freedom of the arts.

The landscape of theatre and performing arts are, anyhow, lively in Sweden. From morning, when the children's theatre welcome there young little audiences, over the lunch hour when the "soup theatre" is served for stressed city people having lunch and watching a one hour play, to the more normal evening performances and late night shows: theatre, dance, music theatre and dance theatre all over. Theatre is a highly subventioned art form and tickets are not too expensive. Especially for young persons and students the theatre ticket price should get close to the price for a ticket to the cinema. About 25% of the theatre's income is from ticket selling, the rest, 75% from subsidies - governmental or regional.

There are three national scenes in Sweden: The National Dramatic Theatre [Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern] , famous for being the stage where Ingmar Bergman has been directing for the stage, and The Royal Opera. The National Touring Theatre is the third, often producing theatre in collaboration with regional theatres and touring them in the country. The National Touring Theatre is also the "roof" of the Cullberg Ballet, one of the most famous art events outside Sweden, together with the texts of August Strindberg and the films of Ingmar Bergman.


So there is items enough for a Swedish theatre critic, in fact the old concept of "covering" all theatrical events in the medias must finally said be a phenomenon for the passed. The multitude of theatres and the many different forms of theatre has created a theatre with ambitions to reach its audience, both physically and mentally. This spring a remarkably lot of classical dramas is staged, but then they are presented in a new perspective to be more relevant to today's audience. A funny, warm hearted and generous Midsummer Night's Dream [Sonho de uma noite de verão] by Shakespeare has moved to a Swedish "folk's park" on the countryside in the 60's. It is midsummer, the most important feast in Swedish daily life, people drink far too much and get lost in the light night in all sense. Molière's The School of Wifes [Escola de Mulheres] is staged and moved à la [Ariane] Mnouchkine to the north of Africa of the 1930's, a still colonial and very patriarchal society where a young woman has nothing or little to decide on her own life and her own choices in love. The stressing of some Muslim cultures and their fundamental opinions has upset the Swedish society with two cases of young immigrant girls from so called "honour based cultures" has been murdered by their families for choosing a male Swedish partner in stead of the family picked-out boy from the home country.

Classics as this, but also newly written drama as text by the Norwegian Jon Fosse and the Swede Lars Norén, whose plays War and Cold has the last years been played also in other European countries. [Modern] Dance Theatre has been a strong branch attracting a wider audience, and we are lucky to have both Mats Ek, the choreographer and theatre director, staging as well The Merchant of Venice [O Mercador de Veneza] as theatre combining dance, and Birgitta Egerbladh creating dance theatre with a very Scandinavian flavour, mixing texts and movements.

Many of these things could be said about any other European country, but another strong side of the theatrical life - and more typical for the Scandinavian countries - is the theatre for children and young audiences. Since the 1950's there has been artistically advanced theatre for the children, and in the boom of little free theatre companies during the 1970's the children's theatre flourished. Today, there is a wide spread on theatre addressing children, and the very young ones, age two to four, has had more attention than before. The society in general has more been focusing on the situation of children, and the UN convention for children signed 1989, has stressed the fact that a human being is an individual from his or her earliest age. Combined with the medical research of the capacity and development of the brain, and with the more and more advanced pre-natal research, step by step the youngest children has taken a place in public life and - among others - gained there share of interesting theatre. One of the most important persons in children’s theatre in the western world, director Suzanne Osten, has created Baby-Drama [na fotografia] this year for persons aged 6 to 12 months; beautiful and interesting about the experience of being born. It is, in fact, putting many questions to the edge: what is theatre, and what is not? What is the art experience at all, what does it mean in our lives? Sitting together with very attentive one year old persons in the theatre must make you think: if it is good, it is good for everyone. Beautiful, inspiring, thematically interesting.

Criticism/ blogs

Theatre criticism is balancing between the theatrical life and the journalistic. It always was a kind of journalist's writing, it always was depending more or less totally to the situation of the medias. Sweden is no exception, but again a country alike other West European countries with a lively press since the middle of the 19th century. Everything that was public was presented and discussed publicly as theatre, art, literature. It still is, but new medias have changed a lot. No one could have had enough imagination fifteen years ago to look into the future and see what we see today. When one of my closest colleagues in the daily paper where I review theatre and dance [Expressen] opened a music blog on the web site edition of the paper recently, I can see that we are working in a constant try-out period of establishing of the new medias. Her blog was opened on the occasion of the Mozart's anniversary, and was called her Mozart journal. It was clearly pointed out that it would be on line as long as it felt interesting, maybe not for ever, and that it was her personal conversation with music lovers focusing on classical music. It shows how the blog is just in between of something private and yet public, a new media full of discussions of what record is the best of Arvo Pärt and why three flute players in the orchestra pit in the opera house left during the period of 40 minutes where they have nothing to play in a recently staged Valkyria by Wagner. It is serious, qualified and yet full of joy, personal notations and new perspectives.

This kind of blog also reflects that a critic no longer is seen upon as a judge, or a voice defending good taste. The contemporary critic is a qualified guide and an inspiring partner in conversation, one opinion among other but not necessarily the opinion that you should accept and admire. Does it coincidence with the fact that theatre critics (as film critics and literature critics) more and more frequently are women? The cultivated elderly gentlemen that used to be a theatre critic, seems to have retired, the critics in their middle ages are mostly women, and the young critics certainly are.

Young critics

Since a couple of years I have the privilege to direct the seminars organised by AICT for young theatre critics. We have one week long seminars somewhere in the world two or three times a year, hosted by some generous theatre festival, which in return has a very active press response from young and ambitious critics. As I meet critics from Mexico, Korea, Hong Kong, Algeria, Canada, USA and from Europe, some 50 people the last two years, I can not avoid noticing a pattern for the work of the critics and the changing and developing of the working conditions. And, indeed, they mirror both theatrical life and the media world.

The young critics are 75% women, and all have long university years behind them and has graduated normally as BAs or MAs. Some of them have a journalistic graduation as well. They write or work with theatre reviews, and they often combine theatre, not at all only with literature - as before did the elderly and cultivated gentlemen, but with dance, with film, with art and fashion and with life style journalism as well. They work for daily papers and magazines, for web site publications and for blogs, for radio stations - quite flashy news on culture and they might even have a tv-show on the theatre of the week, but then this is in a really theatre loving country as Romania in East Europe.

The young critics are interested in the changing side of theatrical life and new perspectives. They do not hesitate to write and analyse performing arts, dance and new circus. They are interested in the cross over possibilities for the stage, and they do not accept the old hierarchies of theatre, putting the classical drama in the top and children's theatre in the bottom. They also are more observant to gender perspectives and the male domination of the stage, a perspective easy to adopt especially being a woman yourself. The impact of dance in theatre during the last fifteen, twenty years has been very clear, and certainly changed the concept of theatre as an art form a great deal.

Future criticism

It is obviously easy to be pessimistic today about the future of criticism. I simply do not agree. If you can accept the fact that criticism is changing together with the change of the medias, the perspective will be a new and more optimistic one. When I oversee the Swedish press, rather Anglo-American in its structure, it is clear that in all medias the amount of writing on culture has expended the last decades enormously, depending on the consumption or use of culture and media. The average today's person is enjoying music, film, medias, books, comics, art, dance, theatre every days for hours. If you compare with the "consumption" of arts a century ago for an average citizen the difference is huge. It is quite natural that criticism also has a quicker temperament, a flood is passing and you have to catch the glimmering fishes and let the grey ones pass. Criticism has become more selective and less covering, and of course we run the risk of being superficial. On the other hand, the university trained critic always can go back to seminars and write longer and more theoretical articles in magazines and books. Thanks to the new and quick medias, the book and especially the pocket book, has had a great renaissance the last years.

Theatre always has changed its nature in relation to the needs of the audiences. The medias, since the first day of printed press, always changed to suit the readers. And both theatre and medias are highly depending on economic conditions. More and more, I look upon theatre criticism - as we say in Sweden - as a cat with nine lives. Normally, it comes down an all four feet. Cats need to sit and think for a while, and then they go hunting again with a new and smart strategy.

Margareta Sörenson

Margareta Sörenson é crítica de teatro e dança nos jornais suecos Expressen e Danstidningen. É especialista em teatro infanto-juvenil e marionetas (In search for aesthetics for the puppet theatre é um dos livros que co-assinou) . É ainda directora dos Seminários para Jovens Críticos da Associação Internacional de Críticos de Teatro. O texto A cat with nine lives foi apresentado originalmente numa conferência, no passado mês de Março, organizada pela Associação de Críticos do Japão, e gentilmente cedido para este dossier ela autora. Links e edit da responsabilidade do blog.

Amanhã: «Criticism and Politics - a conversation with coreographers Xavier Le Roy and Robyn Orlin», de Arnd Wesseman, editor da revista alemã Ballet-tanz.

Já publicados no dossier O Síndroma de Stendhal: Corpo Colonizado, de André Lepecki.

Sem comentários: