Annoyingly I'm having to write real reviews today (one on St Joan for the New Culture Forum and one on Merchant of Venice at the Globe for CultureWars). On top of this I have a couple of piece to write about the NSDF for the Times online's coverage of the Festival's presence in Edinburgh this year, and I still haven't done that piece for Dan Rebellato's Contemporary Theatre Review on the Barker funding debacle. On top of this, I'm sure I've got a couple of script reports to write up for Theatre 503.
This is all particularly annoying since I want to write a piece here about the combination of Othello and Merchant which I saw in a marathon (that really should be capitalised, shouldn't it?) seven-plus hour trip to the Globe yesterday (short version: Merchant - v. v. good. Othello - not so much) entitled "Shakespeare's Racist Plays". After describing our national playwright as "middlebrow" on Culture Clash the other night (even though I don't especially believe in the distinctions) I'm feeling a renewed interest in the Bard's work.
I think I stand by "middlebrow" incidentally: Shakespeare is, after all, far less concerned with flaunting his erudition (such as it was) than either Marlowe before him or Jonson after. If one allows that one's "brow"-rating is essentially elective (cf. Eliot and Pound choosing to self-describe "high art" for example) I don't think for a moment that "highbrow" is what Shakespeare was about. I like to imagine he'd have dismissed the entire notion of brows as hogwash. Conversely, if it is a label to be foisted upon work by critics, I really don't think that the "highbrow" label at all communicates even slightly the experience of what one sees when watching his plays.
I ought to clarify that I'm not imagining high- to low-brow as a sliding index of quality so much as intent. If anything Shakespeare gets "middle" by default for his mixture of "high" and "low" tropes. Still, I'm interested to know what other people think, both about Shakespeare and about the odd tendency to try to categorise art.
In the mean time, there's another fine example of the warring-critics school on Andy Field's blog, albeit one of the most civil and quickly concluded that I have seen.
p.s. In the most reassuring step yet taken by a Labour Arts Minister at 3.54pm James Purnell MP joined the group What Would Leo Do? on Facebook.