The World of Criticism

Ian Herbert, były prezydent AICT pisze na łamach brytyjskiego Stage o wydarzeniach w świecie krytyki w tym roku.

2012 looks like being a busy year for IATC, the International Association of Theatre Critics.


The Association is more than sixty years old now, a good age, though a lot less than that of the Critics’ Circle here in Britain, which is preparing to celebrate its centenary next year. The Circle’s Drama Section is the British section of  IATC, which ensures good representation, as is the case with affiliated groups like the American Theatre Critics’ Association in the US, and the Syndicat de la Critique in France. All in all IATC can boast members in nearly fifty countries.
In recent years the Association has expanded considerably outside Europe, where its tradition has always been strong. The current President is the distinguished Korean critic, Yun-Cheol Kim, and its Executive Committee now includes critics from China, Iran and Japan among its ten members. Beijing is likely to be the host city for the Association’s biennial congress in 2014.
Meanwhile, preparations are well in hand for this year’s congress, to be held in Warsaw at the end of  March. Already, seventy critics from 29 countries have signed up to take part in a busy few days which will coincide with a major Polish theatre event, their Theatre Showcase. The theme of the symposium which is at the core of the congress is ‘Theatre Beyond the Theatre’, a look at the growing tendency worldwide for performances to move outside traditional theatre spaces, and a chance to examine the differences this has made to the critical response.
The congress will also be the occasion for the presentation of the fourth Thalia Prize, with which IATC honours those who have made major contributions to world criticism, usually in ways which have forced critics to think differently about their work. The renowned Indian cultural icon and dance specialist, Kapila Vatsyayan, who is also a member of her country’s Upper House, this year follows Eric Bentley, Jean-Pierre Sarrazac and Richard Schechner in receiving the award.
At the same time as the congress, Warsaw is also the venue for the latest of IATC’s seminars for young critics, a key feature of the Association’s work, where a dozen or more critics at the beginning of their careers gather to see shows, exchange views and usually form networks that will last for many years. Almost all of IATC’s officers and committee members have taken part in one of these congenial and valuable events, which are organised at present by Jean-Pierre Han from France and Mark Brown, critic for the Sunday Herald in Scotland and the UK’s representative on the executive. With Mark’s help, Edinburgh is among the festivals being considered for future seminars.
Practising critics of any age, however, are catered for in the IATC calendar. In May the Serbian city of Novi Sad will host the latest in a long line of IATC’s international symposia, held every three years in conjunction with one of the country’s leading festivals, the Sterijino Pozorje. The theme here will be ‘The Actor Is Dead, Long Live the Actor’, and speakers will be exploring the implications of so much of today’s performance, which has decisively broken away from the usual attempts at naturalistic representation to allow actors and performers considerable freedom of choice in how they address their spectators. The Association has also recently begun a new activity, in offering the services of its members as international jurors for festivals around the world – already IATC juries have given their verdicts in Teheran, Sarajevo and elsewhere.
Perhaps Yun-Cheol Kim’s greatest achievement in his very active presidency is the creation of Critical Stages, the Association’s web journal. I wasn’t convinced of its value when I saw the first few issues, but the fifth one, just published under his editorship, is one that stands out for its breadth and depth, with 34 authors from 20 countries contributing 46 fine articles, essays and reviews that offer much more than a mere glimpse into theatre worldwide.
Ian Herbert                             
3 January 2012


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