Royal Court's Adler & Gibb splits critics
Tim Crouch's latest work, running at the Royal Court until 5 July, proves divisive
There's a slow burn quality to Tim Crouch's latest play… Where in another piece we might expect thrills, here we get theory. For what it builds to, however, the Royal Court's new offering is more than worth sticking with… as the piece goes on, it moves from the real (we're not going to pretend for you) to the realistic (OK, now we're acting) and finally to the almost hyperreal. There's a real jump in scale from Crouch's previous work… It's ambitious, both theatrically and intellectually… The ambling setup of the first half might leave some fidgeting in their seats, but the slow delivery and long silences give priority to the play's groaning raft of ideas… as for theatre… Adler & Gibb is fascinatingly ambivalent…
…A laborious, coolly cerebral piece by arch theatrical conceptualist Tim Crouch about (broadly speaking, it's not easily reducible) the representation of "reality" in art… this work feels like an elaborate doodle on the margins, a miniature stretched out on a too-broad canvas… The evening gradually sharpens into something like drama… This is the sort of game that could go on all night. Mercifully, though, we are released after two or so hours back into a world which, real or otherwise, feels like a far more complex, stimulating place to be.
I'm all for innovation in theatre. But the best formal experiments, I'd suggest, arise from the explosive pressure of the content. In the case of this curious and interesting new piece from Tim Crouch, I feel that the form often acts as a barrier to the themes and ideas. The show certainly offers a layered experience… Already I've imposed a narrative pattern on a show that defies storytelling convention: the fact is that, for much of the first half, we don't understand what is going on. Yet when one has penetrated the formal barrier, one finds that Crouch is delivering some fascinating propositions… I found myself growing into the piece, while feeling that the playfully experimental form dominated the intriguing content.
It takes a while to work out what's going on in Tim Crouch's new play — and that's certainly his intention… Crouch has fun here at the expense of the various kinds of people who live off the creativity of others like parasites. He satirises the opaque judgments of scholars, the tedious ambivalence of critics and the mad devotion of fans… The author directs, along with regular collaborators Karl James and Andy Smith. They foster an atmosphere of calculated chaos. That's every bit as odd as it sounds — the production's looseness is minutely controlled… Yet for all its inventiveness Adler & Gibb is painfully cryptic. The structure is far too tangled, the ending seems flippant and misjudged, and Crouch's desire to subvert theatrical convention feels prankish rather than profound.
…Crouch's distinctive, seriously mischievous fusing of formal experiment and ethical investigation is taken a stage further in Adler & Gibb… an evening that starts off with the air of a studied prank becomes emotionally piercing as we learn the truth of Adler's end and, in a manner that I will not spoil, form continues to mirror the theme of overweening appropriation. Not an easy show, but a memorable and rewarding one.