Panych, using the forum on the Globe and Mail’s comment page, replied with a response worthy of inclusion in the Canadian tax code – which is to say it used a lot of words to convey a simple point. Panych believes that Nestruck’s displeasure came from viewing Our Betters, written in 1915, through a 21st century lens. “You talk about the play being written in 1915 during trench warfare, but how we failed to acknowledge this in the play because it's 2013,” wrote Panych. “What an existential mind-bender! You, a mere boy in pants, have sorted through the space-time continuum to discover the central flaw – not only in this production, but in all productions, past, present, and to come - that plays are performed 'after' they are written.”
in between the lines of Panych’s wordy response is the beating heart of a problem that plagues festivals like Stratford and Shaw
As is often the case, the replies to Panych’s comment (both online and on Nestruck’s Facebook page), talked more about Panych’s tone than his content. My publisher, in his weekly column, went so far as to call Panych’s remarks “a wee bit (very) bitchy.” Style has trumped substance: we’re talking about the way Panych replied rather than the content of the reply itself. Which is a shame because, in between the lines of Panych’s wordy response is the beating heart of a problem that plagues festivals like Stratford and Shaw, whose stock in trade are revivals of plays written decades ago.
Let’s face it: John and Jane Q. Public aren’t all that interested in relics from theatre history. Most people travel to the theatre for one reason only: they want to be entertained. Audience members today are most likely not all that interested in the social history of England during the first World War. They want to see engaging characters with interesting problems who embark on entertaining ways to come to a solution (which is, boiled down, the essence of every story ever told).