It's easier to write a manifesto about how criticism ought to be than to write criticism that is revolutionary. It might also be easier to write criticism than to write a play, and perhaps this is enough of a spur to make criticism better. It's not like a review forces the writer to research their personal anxieties and put them out in public. They can just point out that one of the actors didn't enunciate clearly enough, and sleep like an innocent.
|Performers Elicia Daly, Pauline Goldsmith and Gresa Pallaska during development for The 8th Door. Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.|
I wouldn't like to make assumptions about Matthew Lenton's personality based on his work, even though I have seen quite a few of his pieces. If I went by the ones I enjoyed the most, I'd imagine that he struggles with the implications of sexual desire, finds intimate relationships disappointing and worries that the internet is going to destroy our interior lives.
But I'd be ignoring Beautiful Cosmos and his adaptation of Beggar's Opera, because they don't deal with Modern Love. In fact, it's likely that the description I made is not of Matthew Lenton, but of me. The Eighth Door, made in association with Scottish Opera, however, does address these issues.
|Performers Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.|
There is a large projection screen at the back of the stage. The two performers talk into video camera. Their images are relayed onto the screen, as they flirt and seduce each other (through the medium of video). They toast each other. He hands her a rose. The image of the screen fades between them, measuring out the journey from tentative meeting through desire, through fulfillment, to failure and rejection.
I keep thinking that it isn't a screen at the back of the stage but a mirror.
The Eighth Door is an opera, in so far as there is singing and a score by Lliam Paterson. But it is also a work of post-dramatic theatre: the score, the actions on stage, the video projection run parallel to each other. All of the elements are alienated.
Although it is a response to Bluebeard's Castle, The Eighth Door is performed before the Bartok opera. This may be to make sure that regular opera goers don't leave before the main event.
|Lliam Paterson and Matthew Lenton during The 8th Door development. Scottish Opera & Vanishing Point 2016. Credit Mihaela Bodlovic.|
The 'truth' of criticism is the task of finding the 'truth' within a work of art. Sometimes that 'truth' is disagreeable. Sometimes it is wrong. Sometimes it only exists at the point of connection between the critic and the art work. There may be no 'truth' (in itself the truth).