Sunday, 14 February 2016

Linda Griffiths is Dead

I remember my first experience of the controversial ‘Naked’ season at Factory Theatre. I was excited at being able to see Linda Griffiths’ Age of Arousal (which I missed at Shaw and Passe Muraille). Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer joy of the first act. Here was brave originality, here were women discovering themselves sexually; here was a quintessential audience experience. I had the opportunity to understand another point of view, presented with no didacticism, and with a maximum of self-critical humour. Griffiths created her own vision of life without foisting it on us as the truth; instead she just took us for a magic carpet ride into a flawed, hilarious, rocky, frail, very specific, very personal universe. God bless her for it.
But Linda Griffiths is dead; she died tragically young, and I’m afraid her death also signals a change in the Canadian theatre she loved so much. Canadian theatre is over. Canadian art is over. It’s all over. And it’s time to face it. It’s one thing when Canadian actors and directors are so much less interested in Canadian plays, but you know that we’re in a pretty pickle when those in power — the journalists and arts councils — no longer prioritize Canadian work.
Look at the writing on the wall. Torontonians love Kinky Boots and LOT’s old musicals draw big crowds  — while Factory and Passe Muraille battle to fill their seats. Canadian Stage and Tarragon no longer focus on Canadian work; new European takes on classic plays crowd them out. Soulpepper never had more than a token interest in Canadian plays. Though there is some Canadian work at the new storefront theatres, the real excitement comes when Stratford actors mount The Winter’s Tale or when a controversial new Irish play comes along to shock and confound us all.
People never really understood the importance of Canadian theatre; you probably don’t understand this rant now. You think I’m being old-fashioned and ‘patriotic.’ I’m no nationalist; never was. But art that comes from community, from a personal vision, from an indigenous (i.e. real) place, is more vital for the human soul than anything concocted by a committee of dolts to make a buck.
In other words I’m not so terribly fond of mounties or beavers or The Trudeaus — nor am I standing on guard for thee, O Canada. But now, more than ever, it’s time to stand up for what originates in a tiny community of hearts and minds; for plays motivated by love — not money.
Capitalism has taken over the internet. It will destroy everything that stands in its way. This means anything radical or outside the mainstream. In fifty years there will be no new, real, heartfelt non-commercial writing, visual art, dance, theatre, film, TV — anywhere. There will only be ‘content’ provided for internet capitalists by talented people who have sold out. 
Have you seen the ubiquitous photos of people wrapped in their VR headsets? Soon you will not only be able to watch the latest Hollywood  Marvel comic flic, video game, or pornography. You will get inside it
Who needs ‘Canadian art’?
Linda Griffiths is dead. 
And so much has died along with her. 

It makes me very sad.