Friday, 15 April 2011

Is live performance dead?

The Smart Set: Send in Whatever Clowns Are Left - March 24, 2011

Stefany Anne Golberg wonders whether the days of live performance are numbered - in an age when most of us have all the entertainment we'll ever want on tap, what has happened to the relationship between the audience and the performer? It's a thought-provoking piece but I'm not sure I agree with her conclusions.

CGI graphics can be very impressive, and filmed performances have the benefit of editing to ensure only 'the good bits' make it to the final cut, but the point is audiences know that. We know that Gandalf isn't real and nor is the dragon he's battling - so isn't it more impressive when a flesh and blood person, standing right in front of us, does something that either (a) we know we can't do or (b) stirs our emotions or (c) makes our jaws drop? Isn't that what's going to save live performance? If Golberg's right, Beyonce shouldn't be selling out stadiums, Cirque du Soleil should put away their leotards, the burlesque revival is an anomaly, and fuck you, stand up comedians.

On that note, I'm braving the wilds of London's theatre district tonight to see a ballet (a revival of Diahgilev's Firebird Thamar and Sheherazade). After this post, I hope it's brilliant.

UPDATE (17/4/11): Oh noes! Aren't belly dancers lucky that we don't attract 'fans' and critics like Ismene Brown? For the record, I did not see any evidence of a 'paunch' on Mr Tsiskaridze but he certainly panted a lot. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sheherazade but the Thamar did look a bit slap-dash. I would not go so far as to say that it was "a nadir of nadirs", but I have seen a lot better by smaller, less famous companies. The review provided at the link just smacks of 'ballet ain't what it used to be' doesn't it?

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