Adler & Gibb

  • Our critic's rating:
    Average press rating:
    Friday, June 20, 2014
    Review by:
    Mark Shenton

    Art helps us to make sense of life, but what helps us make sense of art? It is a job that critics sometimes do, but sometimes critics, or at least this one, have to admit defeat. But at least I lasted the punishing course of Adler & Gibb, a weird, hallucinatory fictional biography of a pair of New York conceptual artists merged with the story of film-makers trying to tell their story.

    Another colleague admitted defeat in the interval, fleeing the theatre (but telling me she wouldn't be writing about it). So did noted philosopher A.C Grayling, who was sitting in the row in front of me. I'm not sure how much I gained from staying for the second half, but that is at least part of the job of a critic: to bear witness, even if we are baffled and bewildered by what we see.

    I rushed home and turned to my computer for elucidation. I found a piece by the play's author and co-director Tim Crouch in The Guardian: "Art's power is its ability to contain the idea of one thing inside something else. If we work too hard to make everything look like the thing we say it is, then we're also removing any sense of the game of art."

    This made me none the wiser about what I'd just seen, except that he was clearly aiming at something multi-layered and playful. But though I wanted to be open to that experience, the show didn't really let me in. It all seemed curiously remote, wilfully obscure, frustrating and pointless.

    Yet again, though, I'll also admit that responses to art are inevitably always intensely personal. Visiting the Royal Court's website, I find they are posting some of the tweets the play is getting. Inevitably, of course, they are only providing the positive ones, but I liked this: "Was asked for a voxpop at Adler & Gibb tonight 'I loved it. I absolutely couldn't tell you why.' So articulate."

    Art sometimes depends on a purely visceral response. It clearly succeeds for that spectator, but I can only say it didn't for me. But perhaps I learnt one thing: avoid shows that open on Thursdays. So did Mr Burns at the Almeida.


    "This conceptual play about reality is a strange choice by Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone."
    Dominic Cavendish for The Daily Telegraph

    "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."
    Paul Taylor for The Independent

    "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."
    Michael Billington for The Guardian

    "For all its inventiveness Adler and 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."
    Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard

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