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Thoughts about theatre, writing & life.
More thoughts on a theatrical or artistic response.
Not only is it hard as we don’t have an historical perspective yet, but the vastness and solidarity of London’s response is difficult to match.
It is partly as our world is complex and non-linear. It is unpredictable like the bombings. (Unlike most drama?)
Jeffrey Sachs (who I follow with my pharmaceutical and healthcare hat on) wrote in the FT
“Yesterday when the bombs went off in London I was about a mile away. I therefore witnessed one of the greatest triumphs and resources of modern life against the backdrop of yet another heinous crime. Londoners reacted to the disaster not with shock, violence, or disarray, but with unfailing professionalism, industriousness, concern, and emphatically, civility. There were no pogroms, attacks on London’s large Muslim population, Rather there were statements of praise for the Muslim community, for its integral role in London life. There was no rush to judgment, no bluster, no jingoism, only the steady voices of British politicians directing a democratic response to this most undemocratic of deeds.London, in short, showed even in a moment of real peril, uncertainty, and grief, that it is truly, uniquely one of the great centers of a world civilization, a civilization in which all races, religions, and creeds can live together peacefully, creatively, productively. I feel about London what I feel about my own home of New York City. Both are what mathematicians call a “proof by existence,” in this case a proof that globalization can work, that divisions among people according to religion, ethnicity, language, can be overcome through a commitment to common purposes among people living in close proximity. London must be the way of the future, of an urbanized internationalized life in the 21st century, for if not, our world will likely succumb to hatred, violence, and despair on our very crowded planet.”
The police casualty number is 0870 1566344 (+44 870 1566344 for intl), although police request that you try calling any friends or family members you're concerned about first.
I am safe and well as are everyone I know and I’m in contact with.
I’ve now been in Manhattan over 9/11, a beach (Ao Nang) in Thailand about 30 minutes before the tsunami, and in Lima around about some riots as well as close misses, which I’ll save for another time.
I still believe one must live life and I’ll be going about my “normal” life. I think in terms of a successful theatrical response to “terror”, it might take time before we can put what’s happening now and our emotional response in perspective. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying but it won’t be surprising if many of the plays attempting to discuss “terror” will miss the mark. Then again for the ones which hit it, which tap into what we as humans are feeling from it… that would be a Great Play.
I went to see Death of a Salesman at the Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue, last night. It was brilliant with extremely good performances through out; Brian Dennehy as Willie Loman.
Arthur Miller’s play is one The Great American Plays that aspiring writers have to judge their plays by and it’s a very high standard. It reminds me I have a way to go before I get there.
"Mr. Miller, yours is a career and a body of work every playwright envies and wishes were her or his own; yours is the difficult standard against which we are measured and measure ourselves. For many sleepless nights and days of despair, I want to say thanks a lot; and for making my heart break, and burst into flames, time and time again, since the night, when I was 6 years old, I saw my mother play Linda Loman in a Louisiana community theater production of Salesman, and I think at that moment secretly deciding I wanted to be a playwright. Seeing Incident at Vichy on TV a few years later, I admitted to myself the decision I'd made. Watching splendid recent revivals of View From the Bridge, Salesman, The Crucible, I have gone home, chastened, to re-question all my assumptions about what playwriting is and how one ought to do it. And for always being there, on my bookshelf, when people say that real art can't be political, or that a real artist can't also be a political activist; your life and work are there to remind me what preposterous canards those are--for all this, I want to say thanks a lot."
For American playwrights who come after Arthur Miller, there is of course an unpayable debt. Those of us who seek mastery of dramatic realist narrative have his plays to try to emulate. Scene after scene, they are perhaps our best constructed plays, works of a master carpenter/builder. Those of us who seek not mastery but new ways of making theater have to emulate his refusal to sit comfortably where Salesman enthroned him. Arthur once praised Tennessee Williams for a "restless inconsolability with his solutions which is inevitable in a genuine writer," for making "an assault upon his own viewpoint in an attempt to break it up and reform it on a wider circumference."
Active silences. Denoted by repetitions of characters names with no dialogue.
No action is necessary but the characters are active. Directors should fill this moment as they best see fit.
(Rest.) = Take a pause, a breather, an amount of time; make a transition. It can be smaller than an active silence. It will often denote a transition.
I would concur to a large degree. I think as a writer forging relationships with directors can be invaluable. Knowing what you want from a director and the type which you don’t want is essential.
I’ve received Arts Council funding for my latest full length play. Currently titled Yellow Men, although this will likely have to change as it’s very similar to a recent play called Yellow Man.
If you are looking for theatre experience in London and think you have something to offer, drop me a line.
This is the second time the Arts Council have supported me, so I am grateful.The first time was for my play, Lost in Peru (design here), (mixed review from Lyn Gardner at the Guardian, here; TimeOut liked it) directed by Sarah Levinsky, who went on to win the Oxford Samuel Beckett Trust award.
Part one – the argument
Although the major classics are now well catered for by the Old Vic, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Sir John Gielgud’s productions, etc., there is no theatre in England, which consistently presents the whole range of contemporary drama. Modern movements in music, sculpture, painting, literature, cinema and ballet all have reasonable circulation, but the comparable body of work in the theatre has not outlet.
This bound, in turn, to affect the quality of original work produced, and is probably largely responsible for the lack of interesting new palys in this country.
The commercial theatre cannot be blamed for this state of affairs. If there is any chance of an interesting play becoming a possible commercial proposition, it is given a production, eith er in the west End, on tour or at a try-out theatre. But there is a point of risk below which a commercial management cannot afford to go.
There are however many contemporary plays of great interest, which by their nature, can never command a large public, and other which are at pronounced “ not commercial” because they are in advance of normal public taste., as much modern music and art is. But the whole international range of these plays should be available to English audiences, and they might well have a stimulating affect on dramatic development here.
For dramatic development, the urgent need of our time is to discover a truly contemporary style wherein dramatic action, dialogue, acting and method of presentation are all combined to make a modern theatre spectacle, as definite in style as it has been in all the great periods of theatre. Much successful effort has been expended in this country on bringing the dramatist of the past into focus for the present, but no comparable attention has been given to the future. There should be a theatre where all the experimentalists of the modern era may be seen - from Buchner, Pirabldeelo, Stringberg, wedekind to Crommelynck, Giraudoux, O’Casey, Lorca and Betti, Brecht, Eliot, Odets, Tennessee Williams, John Whiting, to select some important names at random. These are all hard-hitting, uncompromising, writers, and their works are stimulating, provocative and exciting: they belong in a vital modern theatre of experiment where the intention will often be as important as the achievement.
A theatre of this sort cannot be created overnight, nor can immediate results be expected. But it must be able to keep going, and to do this it must collect a public, which will come finally to support its policy. BY associating with similar ventures in the other arts, by taking trouble with the promising dramatic, and by providing an instrument for all kinds of modern theatre experiment, it could become an essential part of London theatre life.
Billington (Guardian) has come out attacking the length of plays that playwrights are currently writing.
“the new, slavish obeisance to the 90-minute rule stems, I suspect, from a mixture of fashion and ignorance; in particular, a shocking unawareness of even the recent past when drama moved beyond a single situation or point of crisis to examine causes as well as effects”
I know he is all for the “state of the nation play” but I think he misses the point about what playwrights are trying to do now.
Here’s a riposte to Billington’s no 90-minute play article.
One from Ian Rickson (artistic director of the Royal Court)
I like “New cultural and political eras demand new forms” and “We live in a time when there is a disappointment with unifying ideology and a greater consciousness of contradiction. The old forms in which the writer diagnoses and hypothesises no longer speak to today's playwrights.”
Another from David Elridge, who has just had Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness go up at the Court.
this riposte is elegant, thoughtful and something I empathise with.
I like:“I am getting impatient," Michael Billington wrote in the Guardian recently, "with ... dramatic driblets that offer ideas for plays rather than plays of ideas." Well, not half as impatient as play-wrights are with him, as he tirelessly pursues his own agenda of trying to encourage the re-emergence of the old-fashioned polemical play whose prime function is "social analysis".
I went to see Osama, The Hero at the Hampstead. There’s an interview with the playwright, Dennis Kelly, which is worth reading. Generally the Hampstead has not be showing plays that have not interested me. This play was good challenging and intriguing in both form, style, content and language,
I thought the actor who played Gary, Tom Brooke, was excellent, in particular. I’m going to reserve judgement on the directing. I think the directing could probably have helped the play more, but didn’t.
The writing itself was very good and I recommend the play for its examination of people living in a society of suspicion where “You don’t need evidence for terrorists”.
Billington at the Guardian gave it a fairly good review.
Talawa is moving towards plays about the stories that don’t get told. So, yes, it includes “minority stories” but it’s a wider remit than that. I think it will produce some interesting work particularly when Talawa move in to their bigger theatre soon.However, the “stories that don’t get told” I think are some of the most interesting in any form or medium. Humans crave good stories, both the familiar and increasingly the unfamiliar.
I had a creative lunch with the people behind Moti Roti, the other day.
Anyone interested in live performance and theatre of the not-3-act-play kind, should check them out. Actually, anyone interested in theatre or performance should.
Similarities between differences
Differences between similarites
Two of the themes, Ali of Moti Roti is exploring and something which resonated with me.