Context: It’s pretty easy to pick up, I imagine. In short, Eastenders and Coronation Street actor Ian Reddington made a bunch of woefully unfunny and mostly tasteless jokes throughout the Festival’s opening ceremony, which he was co-hosting. Elsewhere in Noises Off we had two pages of students reviewing the ceremony with varying degrees of hostility. The last paragraph is a very poor attempt at a Žižek pastiche – proof, were proof needed, that such parodies shouldn’t be undertaken at four in the morning with no preparation.
The Metastases of Enjoyment
Second edition editorials can be a real bugger to write. The first discussion hasn’t happened; everyone’s seen different shows; the Festival hasn’t begun to coalesce into a community. Happily, thanks to yesterday’s opening ceremony, the Festival already seems to have bonded. As such, thanks are due to Ian Reddington, who gamely took it on himself to provoke the student body into a single, tutting mass.
Offence seems to be very much in vogue at the moment. London theatre has of late enjoyed a sustained period of various people taking various offence at various new plays. First up was Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice, Ian Shuttleworth’s recent response to which we printed in yesterday’s edition of Noises Off. Hard on its heels came Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, which, in amongst some very bad tempered debate, actually prompted some of the most passionately felt and closely argued writing on politics and theatre.
What is interesting, though, is that it was precisely the offence taken, the nature of the offence and the arguments that the offence generated that made these the most talked about plays in London. Alia Bano’s Shades (starring the effervescently lovely NSDF selector Stephanie Street) and Marius von Mayenburg’s The Stone – playing at the Royal Court at the same time as Seven Jewish Children – were both better pieces of theatre. As such, in a way there was less to talk about. One could happily enthuse with fellow theatregoers about how much you’d loved both, about their clevernesses and their many merits, but it’s a limited conversation compared to the miles and miles of print generated by Seven Jewish Children’s ten minutes of stage-time.
Offence, then, seems to be the most useful tool for prompting dialogue – an oft-professed aim of British theatre. Re-enter Reddington. Yeah, sure, on the face of it this was a spectacularly mis-judged bit of capering – lechery, disdain, contempt – all making for rather uncomfortable viewing. But what of these ad-libs? What of their nature?
Reddington’s gags did not come from a void. Quite the reverse. What Mr Reddington offered was a series of well-worn tropes of offence. Where is the offence located, however? I claim it is within our own narcissistic self-disgust at having recognised Reddington’s tropes. I am prepared to go to the end. Reddington represents the Festival’s Id. Our collective Super-Ego recoils at being made to recognise these thoughts, the ideas that we seek to repress. Ideas, the existence of which, we are in collective denial. The recognition process, the act of remembrance, conjures a collective trauma which manifests itself as denial, and consequently outrage.
With apologies to Slavoj Žižek