The last post was written on a tiny island looking out towards Europe and the future.
Todays post is written on a tiny island looking inwards and backwards.
Didactics and polemics have never been colours in my playwriting palette; I’ve used allusion, allegory and lessons from history to explore an area of current relevance as in Poor Mrs Pepys (unfettered capitalism) and Hypothermia (fascisms’ consequences).
Prior to the events of the past fortnight I had as much clarity as its possible to have about the areas of exploration for the next play, the next outing into a theatre space where human dynamics are played out in front of a group of people, bad decisions experienced, rotten outcomes shared and challenged in a created context.
Post recent events and a collective inability to recognise the difference between hypothesis and fact, between drama and reality, or to grasp the concept of consequence, for which all instruments of the state, the media and we who created them are responsible; the ‘burn’ the ‘idea’ the ‘blood and guts’ of a play, this next piece, is forming in a febrile, yet fixedly static, cauldron.
Racism, xenophobia, punitive economic policy, bigotry and delusions about an empirical past are evident areas ripe for post Brexit dramatic dissection; confusion, deceit, fear, identity and loss of faith offer broader stretches of dilemma in which to swim but the role of the playwright, to offer options, ideas and routes into alternative futures as a consequence of present concerns is a challenge when its a known that a nominally democratic decision has stuffed us all up.
Pointing at something and saying its wrong will never do, unless the other hand points at a better choice. No one currently wants to put either hand up.
Shame upon shame and stasis again.
Form perhaps needs to fit the tenor of the times and verbatim theatre may continue to engage in ever more powerful ways in a divided context.
The efficacy of the medium faced scrutiny from chair David Edgar and a large roomful of playwrights in the capital yesterday through a panel discussion courtesy of London Writers Week and the Writers Guild. Alecky Blythe, Robin Soans and Gillian Slovo gave insights into their process. While thrilling to the whirring of scores of creative brains and the benediction of Lyn Gardners‘ presence philosophical questions dropped into this writers head ‘Presenting the current societal schism on stage in verbatim form, good idea or bad? Is it possible to explore a seemingly unanswerable and enormous issue in this way? Do I have the courage of these extraordinary writers to pick at sores and thrust a voice recorder into angry faces?
And who is it for of course.
Whose mind are we currently seeking to change through demonstrating the division and the issue? 48/52 equals split down the middle. Just who is ‘the audience’ today and what do they want or perhaps more importantly need to think and feel right now?
In order for catharsis and renewal to begin the question needs an answer.
Watching the Threepenny Opera in the Olivier this week, there to see the excellent Jamie Beddard give a phenomenal landmark performance on a main stage, some audience seated around me had an unusual muted quality, a collective stifled guffaw only occasionally edgily released, like a fart during the new vicars sermon.
Brecht for my money can offer a cop out by virtue of alienation, the distance providing comfortable space over which to judge before moving on swiftly, untouched, to chateaubriand and armagnac.
At one point in the action the audience came alive, the bottle unstopped.
Post interval Rory Kinnear, playing Macheath, broke the wall, sardonically suggesting that this wasn’t the show to watch if being cheered up was the aim, a statement which raised laughter, a ripple of release across the circle. His second, half in character, half out of character josh/jibe (dependent on stay/remain stance) suggesting that in the post Brexit world/world of the play ‘you’ll be alright as long as you’ve got cash, lots of cash’ met immediate disquiet, the cork flew back in, and buttocks remained, generally, firmly clenched for the duration.
A fine Rufus Norris production was well received to solid applause and pockets of whooping delivered by a strangely jumpy audience.
Tolerance, respect for culture, the development of workers and human rights and progress in equality for people with disabilities are European traits, not English ones. Partnership with Europe has offered evolution and we can thank social progress in northern european countries for much cultural advancement.
In the age of fragmentation and this current political vacuum its vital that work featuring minorities, the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged, the voiceless and the easily disregarded continues to be seen and specifically to be seen by broad audiences, including decision-makers, the wealthy and the cushioned, audiences currently embarrassed and uncertain but who nonetheless will come to theatres to chew over anxieties and increasingly toy with possibilities.
Dramatic fare served up on stages in the months ahead needs to represent everyone and offer an affirmation of tolerance and the value of all human experience, ideals that may be lost in the separation.
There’s a responsibility, now more than ever, to pull a humanistic sensibility from a bruised British public.
Perhaps that’s the place to start from.
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