The Author

Tim Crouch
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
(2009)

Like John Clancy's The Event, The Author is an exercise in metatheatre that tells us as much about our society as the way in which it is portrayed on stage.

The audience sits in steeply-pitched traverse but, unusually, the actors do not play in the space between. Instead, they mingle with their spectators, chatting away happily and trying to evade identification until their moment comes to speak, under the expert and meticulous direction of this writer's regular collaborators Karl James and a smith..

First, we hear Adrian (Howells), a smiling archetype of Crouch Prozac-niceness. He plays an enthusiastic Royal Court junkie, a Friend of the theatre who goes to every show and seemingly has a penchant for In-Yer-Face.

Adrian enthuses and enlists contributions from random innocents who thought that they had come to see a play, not become part of one. To be fair, some give as good as they get and at the performance under review, a lady called Ulla received by far the biggest laugh of the 80 minutes.

The core of the story, which is a real Sarah Kane/Edward Bond style Court shocker is related calmly by Tim Crouch himself.

While the author of The Author effectively narrates the story of a girl raped in a war zone by her father, the other two actors, Welsh Vic (Llewellyn) and bleach-blonde Esther (Smith) talk through their experiences in auditioning, rehearsing and performing in the kind of play that gets newspapers harking back nostalgically to the days when censorship still existed.

This may all sound like an exercise in pretentiousness but Tim Crouch knows exactly what he is doing and by the end, 70 or so people who had little idea of what to expect will have come away with a better understanding of the lives of jobbing actors and the stresses that they undergo.

More subtly, they will also have been indoctrinated with some strong opinions regarding the theme of a society that now accepts violence and war as the norm and indisputably, should not.

The intention behind The Author was probably to have a little fun at the expense of the audience but also to make us stop and think by taking familiar material and addressing it in a novel way. If so, it has succeeded.

Playing until 24 October

David Chadderton reviewed this production in Manchester in 2010

Philip Fisher