(Matt Trueman’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/7.)
Riggan Thomson – once the star of the Birdman films, now a big-name Broadway newbie – leaves his dressing room at the St James theatre in New York and winds through its labyrinth of backstage corridors. The paint is peeling, the pipes are bare and the wallpaper would better suit a 1970s B&B. He passes all sorts en route – silent, oddball technicians; a prompt asleep in his chair – before waltzing into the wings, stepping on to the stage and sliding, seamlessly, into a scene and into character.
Film critics have, inevitably, read Birdman as a film about film: a comment on the vanity and vapidity of blockbuster Hollywood, on superstars and superheroes and “art” driven purely by box office rankings. That’s all in there, for sure, but Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film is far better on the subject of the theatre. It might stake a decent claim to be the best film about theatre ever made.