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  1. MirroruptonatureMirroruptonature03-31-2009

    The comments keep coming after the article.

    Kennedy has done this type of personal reflection before as well.

    When we saw a number of Boston productions of plays that used mental illness as a primary subject or metaphor, Kennedy wrote about her personal feelings about the subject.

    When she saw the premiere of Eurydice at Yale Rep, she wrote a piece about how she found herself unable to write the review because she was overwhelmed with emotions over the recent loss of her own father.

    The weird thing is that the harsh comments seem to be accusing Louise Kennedy of not feeling enough, when her history is anything but.

  2. Mark F FisherMark F Fisher03-31-2009

    There are three questions a critic needs to ask. What was the play trying to do? How well did it do it? And was it worth doing it in the first place? It seems to me that Louise Kennedy gets the answer to the first question wrong. She describes Blackbird as “a 100-minute play that aims to be shocking” and builds her review and subsequent think-piece on that assumption. If you expect it to be shocking and you’re not shocked, then of course you will be disappointed.

    But who says it aims to be shocking? Does any playwright set out to shock? David Harrower’s aim was surely to pick apart the ambiguous, contradictory grey areas behind the pedophile headlines. It’s Kennedy’s right to judge him on the success or otherwise of that, but to blame him for not being shocking is to miss the point (aside from anything else, when was the last time anyone was shocked by a Shakespeare play?). I suspect the reason for the vehemence of the replies is because the readers responded to the play with a different set of expectations to Kennedy. If she was left feeling “emotionally flat, tired, and more than a little annoyed” then she has to try and explain that, but I think to focus on the shock-value is not the answer.

    I read a review the other day (http://thewriterlylife.blogspot.com/2009/03/blackbird.html) that claimed Harrower was part of the in-yer-face generation of British playwrights. This is very much mistaken and I suspect some of the reactions to Blackbird have been skewed by similar misapprehensions. I didn’t see this production and don’t know what publicity it had in advance, but I get a feeling the play might have been damaged by wrong expectations.

  3. Thomas GarveyThomas Garvey03-31-2009

    I think Kennedy’s notorious pan of Blackbird is, indeed, what’s roiling beneath the surface of those negative comments. (Of course they’re nothing next to the comments I’ve received at my blog, which is why I finally shut the comments down!) Now I’ve long been a vocal critic of Kennedy, so if I’m simply beating a dead horse for any reader, please feel free to skip ahead. But Kennedy’s recent article only underlines for me what I’ve long taken as one of the deepest flaws in her writing: she assumes, practically explicitly, that her political positions constitute a valid aesthetic simply because she, herself, holds said views. Thus Blackbird, which clearly undercuts much feminist theory on pedophilic victimization, simply doesn’t exist; she can’t even understand what it’s about; to her, “There. Is. Nothing. There.” Meanwhile The Pain and the Itch, which to my mind was actually more gratuitous in its exploitation of its eight-year-old central figure, was more appealing to Kennedy – because the play’s eventual target was racism (a far more conventional political thrust). Indeed, I’d argue that her piece was a far deeper kind of psychological confession than she realized. It wasn’t so much a declaration of her inability to be shocked as of her refusal to be shocked; a declaration that essentially, she would not be moved.

  4. One of your quotedOne of your quoted04-02-2009

    I don’t think anyone is outright saying Louise Kennedy neverfeels or is moved by a show, but I do think there is a level of dissappointment about her article because people are looking to her for advice on what to see and what she thought if shows, and to have her state that she’s rarely moved anymore by a play is frustrating to her readers and the people working in theatre. Why, if she’s so jaded, should her opinion be the big voice out there? If he can’t find it in herself to attend plays with a sense of anticipation and excitement, then what value does her opinion hold over the average playgoer??

  5. C HeathC Heath04-18-2009

    Perhaps more jaded critique is necessary nowadays. I think I may be of the same mindset that Kennedy possesses. Though I didn’t see BLACKBIRD in Boston (nor when it was here in New York), I had a similar reaction to plays such as AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and GOD OF CARNAGE. Once you get over the shocking twists that allow suburbanites to release their basest and most visceral feelings, the plays really aren’t that good.

    Perhaps she’s got a point.