Can writing be taught? Are creative writing courses a waste of time?

Can writing be taught? Are creative writing courses a waste of time?

Robert Tanitch reviews Seminar at Hampstead Theatre, London NW3

American playwright Theresa Rebeck writes about four aspiring twentysomething writers, two girls and two boys, who each pay $5,000 to be humiliated by a once famous novelist who runs weekly seminars on creative writing. He makes his judgements after a ridiculously cursory reading of the texts he is given; sometimes not getting past the first sentence.

The novelist spells out in a long and bitter speech, which feels autobiographical, exactly what sort of career, even a talented and successful writer can look forward to. His main purpose, however, is to deliver barbed put-you-downs in as rude a manner as possible and Roger Allam, who plays him, does just that.

Robert Tanitch logoIt is amazing the youngsters put up with it. You wait for somebody to hit him. Nobody does; instead the girls  get into bed with him. Bryan Dick has potentially the most interesting role as one of the four students.

Seminar doesn’t go anywhere; and then it goes on after it should have finished. I sat there, pretty bored, wondering what the characters in the play would have said about Rebeck’s play if they had been asked to criticize it.

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