Saturday, 25 June 2016

Just Say No to Kate Taylor

Invective can be like a drug; addictive and appealing in a demented way. For years Kate Taylor spewed her vile bile as the Globe and Mail theatre critic. Her work was like a car accident, difficult to see but hard to turn away from. I thought we were done with her — but it seems she’s back with a vengeance.
In the Globe and Mail recently, Kate joined the gang of supporters for The James Plays at Luminato, bemoaning the sad state of Canadian theatre. She whines that we have no Canadian National Theatre, saying “our closest thing would be the National Arts Centre,” going on to say that even if we did have a ‘national theatre’ there would be only one playwright (Michel Tremblay) good enough to fill it. Sorry Kate, but what about Judith Thompson, Linda Griffiths, Djanet Sears, John Mighton, Michel Marc Bouchard, or Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, or Leah Cherniak and Martha Ross? You see, there are so many brilliant Canadian playwrights, that I run the risk of offending someone by not mentioning all of them. 
What is going on here? I’ll tell you: Taylor has joined the pack of Canadian culture naysayers. The king of Canadian- Culture-Haters is without a doubt, Jorn Weisbrodt, who (in case you haven’t heard) has just built a monumental arts centre (apparently with his bare hands!) called The Hearn which, some say, will be his legacy.
Well I certainly hope so. The place is in the middle of nowhere, and you can’t get too it or from it unless you are rich enough to own a car, and you can’t get into or out of it on foot unless you are young and able bodied. I can see the lawsuits coming; they sell booze at The Hearn and the floors are rocky with rubble. But apparently since Europe is filled with giant old factories that they have turned into pretentious ‘culture centres’ for the affluent middle class, Toronto must have one too.
I know I am behind the times on this. The new culture critics tell us that Canada is a backwater with no history of an indigenous culture (which of course includes our Aboriginal work). Jorn, who is member of the worlds cultural elite, an international arts entrepreneur, came to Toronto to tell us what culture is — and it’s certainly not us. To the suggestion that Toronto might be a world class city, Jorn responded with a sneer: “If you are world-class, it means that the world talks about you. Certain criteria go with that. Toronto may be on the cusp of breaking through to be a world-class city?” 
May be on the cusp
Sorry Jorn, but I don’t give a flying you-know-what whether you or anyone else thinks Toronto is a world class city. We spent years wresting ourself from the colonialism of British plays; now we must bow to this colonialism yet again?
I think it’s a crime the way our cultural institutions,  arts councils and most of all Canadian producers themselves, have dialled the enthusiasm down for indigenous Canadian talent, to the point of ignoring Canadian work and offering full support to non-Canadian work instead.

And please, please tell me Kate Taylor is not going to start critiquing theatre once more — we just can’t have her hurling venomous brickbats at us all again!