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HUMANITIES 355 tion of the complexity of issues and motivations involved in the acts of resistance which is one of the great strengths of Biddiscombe's book; while at the same time demonstrating that the Werwolf was a deadly Nazi venture which never really got off the ground. (IRMGARD STEINISCH) Gordon Vogt. Critical Stages: Canadian Theatre in Crisis Oberon Press. 224· $38.95, $19·95 There are three parts to this volume that complicate my reaction to it. The theatre reviews, for the most part written for broadcast on CBC Stereo Morning during the late 1970S and early 19805, compose the main part. Almost all concern theatre in Toronto, along with the Stratford, Shaw, and Blyth Festivals. They are a pleasure to read, as prose, as eyewitness history, and as criticism. Vogt has a thorough grounding in the history, theory, and practice of theatre - surely rare among critics in this country - and has a well-crafted personal style. He thus provides two services I have always fOWld rare in theatre reviews. First, I have a strong sense of the look, sound, and tone of individual productions, so that the gathered reviews provide a kind of epistolary theatre history, accessible to most readers even now. But also (and far more important), in most reviews Vogt is capable of articulating the intentions of the director, designer, and actors with sympathy, even if he himself goes on to express his own disappointment in the results. I found myself capable of arguing or agreeing with this author as I read each review. Gordon Vogt was a strong - I would say moralistic - advocate for local culture. There is an outrage palpable in his arguments· against the 'international' characterand tourist-driven policies of the Stratford Festival under the leadership of Robin Phillips. The outrage, however, never veers towards xenophobia. It is not, finally, the devotion to Shakespeare (or to Shaw) to which he objects,but to un-illuminating or incompetent direction, unnecessary imported stars, lamentably poor training for Canadian performers , and the lopsided government subsidies paid to such 'showpieces' of 'Canadian' culture. He considers the Shaw Festival, then under the new directorship of Christopher Newton, a model of the ensemble company. And he holds up George Luscombe's TWP as a model of a true 'national' theatre, arguing that it used a wide variety of (imported) theatrical techniques to tell stories and explore issues with a Canadian voice. He is strongly prejudiced in favour of Luscombe, and writes persuasively. I happen to agree with Vogt, but like so much of this prose, even if you do not, it becomes a pleasure to argue with this writer. There is also an interesting and I believe important introduction by Rick Salutin, who discusses the value of critics in the building of a theatrical culture and a demanding audience. Hewrites about the need for intelligent response to performance, and the clearly political meaning behind the 356 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 uninformed personal responses that generally pass as criticism in the press. These, as opposed to the work of Gordon Vogt. But the real surprise of this volume is the afterword (fourteenpages) by Vogt's brother Bruce. For most of the period covered by these reviews, Gordon Vogt was fighting a brain tumour; it finally took his life in 1985 at the age of thirty-seven. Bruce Vogt describes the fight with pride and melancholy - the periodic relief of an improved diagnosis, the depression of a recurrence, the regret that more had notbeen accomplished, the acceptance that he had done what he could. There is liberal quotation from Gordon Vogt's letters, which provides an unusual context for a book of criticism. I found myself, first of all, wishing for more of the letters; he really was a good writer, and I wonder if there is the seed of another volume here. But I also found myself going back to the criticism to look for that very personal, physical struggle in what the world of arts and letters would call 'mere' criticism. It may be there, in the intensity of opinion, perhaps, in the urgency of the prose, and in the need to record the details of OUf most ephemeral...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 355-356
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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