Monthly Archives: May 2017

Chris’s hierarchy of appealing to authority

Okay, in a very rare break for this blog, I’m going to write about someone that’s not theatre-related at all, or even arts-related. This is something that frequently crops up in arguments about the the arts, but no more or less than anywhere else. But with an general election coming and the inevitable rise in poorly-researched claims to back up your favourite party, it’s about time I said something about this. I’m even going to be completely serious here are refrain from snarky asides that I usually make.

The practice I’m referring to is appealing to authority. This is where people attempt to back up their claims by citing the research of some sort of expert who is meant to back up the position. Now, in theory, this should be a good way of proving a point, showing someone else who knows what they’re doing and has done the research. But, in practice, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and instead is used as a tactic to mislead people into believing their claim is proven when it isn’t. If you are doing it yourself, chances are you don’t realise you’re doing it because you are hearing what you want to hear and not thinking about whether this really supports you are strongly as I think it does.

So, as an attempt to help people appealing to authority to come up with decent arguments, and to enable the rest of us to spot the hogwash, I have taken inspiration from the legendary Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement. Using this model, I am pleased to introduce Chris’s Hierarchy of Appealing to Authority.

Diagram reproduces headings and sub-headings below.
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The Red Lion and East is East

Newcastle’s big two theatres have been busy in the last month, with main shows going head to head at the same time. Unusually, both productions are revivals. Not too unusual for Northern Stage to do a revival (though less often than it used to be), but unusual for Live to do this. The Red Lion only just counts a revival, having premiered at the National¬† Theatre in 2015, but off-hand, the only revivals I can think of at Live are re-runs of successful shows previously premiered there. Even Northern Stage haven’t done that many revivals lately if you don’t count the “concept” productions such as Hedda Gabbler and Cyrano de Bergerac.

But as far as revivals go, both productions are revivals of excellent plays, and but companies have done an great job of bringing the plays back.

The Red Lion

Red_lion_7I didn’t pay much attention to The Red Lion when Live Theatre first announced it because neither the play nor the author rang a bell. But it should have done, because whilst I didn’t remember the name, I certainly did remember one of his plays, Dealer’s Choice, performed by a then-unknown Dugout Theatre shortly before their rise to stardom. This play, a dark play about six men trapped in a dangerous spiral of high-stakes poker, always stuck in my mind amongst the hundreds of plays I’ve seen. He’s notable for other plays too, but this is the one I based my high expectations on, and he did not disappoint.

Set in the world of semi-professional non-league football, this play is inspired in part by Marber’s own experience in saving his own local club from bankruptcy. So you might think that such a play would be a homage to the beautiful game, free from the influence of spoilt millionaires, and self-serving sha. Guess again. Cheating and greed are just as rife, and the story centres around a bung that goes wrong. Continue reading

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Brighton Fringe 2017 – as it happens

Friday 26th May: Okay, that’s it. All packed. Off to Brighton tomorrow.

Before I get too stuck into Brighton, one last look back at the north-east. I will aim to get my new list of what’s worth watching up shortly, but before then, I am going to wholeheartedly recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I don’t make recommendations of Newcastle Theatre Royal or other big theatres, where the big budgets often go into flashy staging rather than good stories, but this one is exceptional. Many good reasons to watch this, but the main one off the top of my head is that the director, Marianne Elliott, is the one responsible for War Horse, and the staging here is just as good, if not better. It begins on Tuesday and has a two-week run. I can’t get the Newcastle Theatre Royal website to work right now, so for further information you can read this page instead.

Bed time. 6 a.m. start tomorrow. Bugger.

Thursday 25th May: So with my journey to Brighton looming imminently, I can stop talking about other reviews and look at my own. So, a reminder of the ground rules:

Every play I see is eligible for review. If it’s good, or it has potential, it will get a review here in the live coverage for immediate reaction, and a more considered review when I do my roundup. Beyond that, I do not make any attempt to select notable plays and what I see is entirely decided by what I want to see as a punter.

However, you are welcome to invite me to review your play, and if you supply me with a press ticket, I will normally prioritise seeing you over other plays. If I get a large number of requests I may have to say no to some reviews, but I do not expect that to happen in Brighton. (It may happen in Edinburgh, and I’ve set some categories of things I won’t review there, but I’ll talk about that closer to the time.) Please be aware, however, that you get no other favours for supplying a press ticket. I might decide you’re great, and if you’re really good I might bang on about you for years to come, but you won’t get better feedback just because I got a free ticket. That’s the summary. If you want the full rules, they are here and here.

A reminder that I’m around 27th-30th. (I’m returning to Durham on the 31st but I won’t have time to see things before then.) Regardless of what you do, I hope you give me a lot of reasons to be positive over those four days.

Wednesday 24th May: Right, where were we?

Grist to the Mill are coming back with their final showing of The Unknown Soldier and Gratiano, one each. Gratiano got a Highly Recommended from Fringereview earlier in the month, but I’d heard nothing from The Unknown Soldier until yesterday when a review came through quite a while after their most recent performance. Normally this would be no big deal is this play is already drowning in praise from Edinburgh, but this one is a 4* from The Independent. Now, that is something. Reviews from the broadsheets (or websites formerly circulating as broadsheets) at the Brighton Fringe are virtually unheard of, with most looking at Brighton Festival. Very big deal to get their attention, let alone the good review.

Changing the subject a little, another successful show that’s left the Brighton Fringe is Mobile and that is now coming to Sunderland on Friday and Saturday. There are details here, but I’d advise getting a move on because two of the twelve showings are already sold out and another two are going fast.

And it’s not long until I’m coming now. Saturday’s not that far off. Oh heck. Continue reading

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