MARNI APPLETON

THEATRE CRITIC & AUTHOR

Interviewed by James Barbour & Sam Carrack

Marni is a writer based in South London. She has written theatre criticism for Auditorium Magazine, Broadway Baby and Everything Theatre. Her short fiction has been published most recently in Banshee and The Tangerine.

James Barbour: Do you always write notes?

 

MA: Mostly yeah, unless I’m totally loving it, in which case I tend not to write too much.

 

SC: What happens when the piece is, how to put this delicately…not brilliant?

 

MA: Well…when I sit down to review something I do so fully aware that somebody has spent a lot of time and effort making this thing, so I try to be nice when I’m writing about it, or always try to write something nice, because you can, you can say something positive about literally anything.

If it's obvious people are trying to do something that’s not really come off very well I try and phrase my review along the lines of it was an attempt that didn't quite come off, rather than flat our saying it didn't work.

 

SC: What makes a five star show?

 

MA: I only ever give five star reviews to shows where I come out and I feel like the world is different, like I must talk about it, I want to tell someone about it, if they've changed my mind or opinion on something. Of course that has to be on top of the entertainment thing of solid production values, looking good, sounding good, clearly thought has gone in to how this piece is presented as a whole. But it doesn't happen very often, ha ha, you have to think about it quite hard I think. Five stars are and should be rare I think.

 

JB: What does forgiveness mean to you?

 

MA: erm...gosh, it's such a broad thing, when you think about it. I think on the basic level its like accepting apology, that’s my first thought, but then I guess you can forgive people that don't apologise. I think it’s an inward thing first, but then it has to have some outward behavior attached to it. You can't act forgiving and not feel that way inside. I mean, now to contradict my earlier self, ha ha, I think its about making peace with the situation or the person, but it depends on the situation or person.

 

JB: What do you mean?

 

MA: So, say for instance a close friend were to do something to annoy my, because we're so close, if they said ‘sorry’, I’d probably have already forgiven them, but, hypothetically, if it was someone that really annoyed me, I wouldn't forgive them before they'd even done something wrong, ha ha. Your own rules of forgiveness change depending on who or what you need to forgive.

 

SC: And different people have different rules, so there is no all encompassing answer, yet that is what we've asked you.

 

MA: ha ha, yeah, thanks for that!

 

JB: And you see people get wound up over things you yourself would find it quite easy to forgive, or let go.

 

MA: Yeah, some people get upset over the silliest little things, well different small things rather than silly. I mean I do for god's sake, if someone doesn't reply to a message in a group chat I’m part of I get really annoyed, and I’ll be speaking to someone else separately about it, “why is no one replying to my picture” and they'll not be replying to that because they thinking, my god this is so pathetic, ha ha. But I think that’s because I always reply instantly to messages I get, and not only instantly, but enthusiastically as well, so I just want them to do that to me, ha ha ha.

 

SC: Do you think you’re a forgiving person?

 

MA: I think I’m quite, like, not a forgiving person. Well, I think I am on a small level, but yeah, I do hold grudges, and I think there are lots of things that I’d struggle to forgive. I sound harsh don't I? ha ha, but I think I give people fair chances. I always try to be forgiving, but then I think there are times where I feel like forgiveness is not due. There are many things I could forgive if people repented and seemed apologetic, so I guess it depends on them as well. Then I do think there are some things that are unforgiveable.

 

JB: Like what?

 

MA: Killing a child I think is unforgivable. Like if someone comes to me and says but what about this, and what about that, I still don’t think there’s any valid excuse.

 

SC: Well that’s our play!

 

MA: Is it? Wow ok.

 

JB: How about to end miserable suffering, chronic pain, illness etc.

 

MA: Yeah, ok, let me quantify, I think violently killing a child is unforgiveable. Yeah because, thinking about an example, I think it was Ted Hughes’s second wife [Assia Wevill], killed herself and her daughter, by gassing them and I forgive her for that, because I think she was very sad, so in that instance it was forgivable, and that wasn’t even because of chronic pain - there were mental health issues so I guess she was in chronic emotional pain - in that sense I sympathize. Gosh, your mind changes so quickly doesn’t, there’s so many variables?

 

SC: Yeah, that’s what we’re finding, is that it’s such a big word, with very specific individual meanings to everyone. To bring it back to art, do you feel like makers of art should ever have to apologise, or seek forgiveness for the work they do?

 

MA: I think, with art, you put it out there as a thing, you can't come out afterwards and be like, we're going to keep putting this on but sorry I get that upset you. You put it out there and say, this will upset people but that’s important for putting across my message. There was a show I went to see in Edinburgh a couple of years back that made me really, really upset. It was people talking on stage and then loads of videos of refugee children drowning. I was crying in the toilets afterwards, I was a little angry to be honest; it felt like it was a massive waste of my time, it made me so upset. The aim of the play was to make you feel guilty for just sitting around while all this stuff was happening, and a friend of mine who saw it the same time picked up on that and was saying that he thought it was great, saying things like have you ever seen a play that you made you feel something so strongly? It was so successful at what it did. So I sat down to write the review, and I gave it a 4 star review, but then my editor changed it to a 2 star review, because my review was so negative, it was like I hated it. It was a hard thing to put stars on, I’d struggle to see one of their shows again, I appreciate the message but also I think I’m somebody that does get upset reading those things in the news and I try and give money to help relief efforts, I feel like I do try hard...but I appreciate it was technically a good show.

 

JB: Wow, that’s pretty serious stuff.

 

MA: Yeah, well I don’t only review serious plays, I have reviewed comedy as well, although I did get trolled when I did that, ha ha.

 

SC: Really?

 

MA: Yeah, well there was this site, where you can review reviewers or something and I’m on there, someone has critiqued my critiquing, ha ha. It’s funny though because I’ve not really done huge amounts of comedy reviewing so it was all a bit surreal to be honest.

 

JB: Fair enough, crazy digital age, where reviewers get reviewed, but who reviews the reviewers reviewers review?

 

MA: Oh gosh, this could go on forever.

 

SC: Marni, thank you so much for talking to us.

 

MA: Pleasure, best of luck with the project, its big! I’m looking forward to see how it all shapes up.

 

SC: Yeah, we are too, five stars. ha ha!

" I think it’s an inward thing first, but then it has to have some outward behaviour attached to it. You can't act forgiving and not feel that way inside "

Sam Carrack: When you sit down to write a review what are you thinking?

 

Marni Appleton: well I think, with theatre reviewing, there are two things. The first thing is really about whether it’s an interesting piece, do I or did I find it interesting, how it looks, how it sounds, which is not so much about the content. It could be about anything that particularly grabbed me. Then the second thing is - which I usually think about afterwards, when I’ve written down all my scribbled notes, which are…boring, ha ha - I try to think more about what the piece was trying to say, which I think you need to do after you’ve had a bit of space, you can’t just in the moment be like, oh, yeah, I got everything you were trying to say. That often means I don’t really know what I think about a piece until I sit down to write the review.