Monday, April 27, 2009

27th April

Watching a documentary on the tv tonight about the collapse of the banking system.

There were the ad breaks, as usual, and in the adbreaks the usual commercials for cars. As if nothing had happened.

As if the financial crisis hadn't happened, and it still made perfect sense to for people to buy new cars.

As if the ecological crisis wasn't happening, and it still made perfect sense to drive them.

It's a time where all the delusions that govern this world seem more apparent than ever: and the lies that sustain them even more paper thin.

And all the time the bodies are piling up in Mexico city, and that huge city of 20 million souls is in a state of uncanny stillness.

And I too, I continue to act as if nothing had happened. Business as usual. I carry on. I prepare for rehearsals of LEAVE TO REMAIN, I send out the emails to give the show publicity, because I really don't know what else it's appropriate to do.

I pray. Aware that perhaps a show that deals with bereavement may become all too apposite.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

26th April
I went out to the bank machine early yesterday evening.
I was rehearsing a speech in my head: ne I had to give later that evening.
I heard a voice say "Excuse me" very urgently, almost aggressively, and when I looked up I met the eyes of a guy standing with his mates outside the pub door for a smoke.
Having that discontented look such men have.
And he said:
"You're a bloke".
Much less aggressively after my eyes met his. Almost reproachfully.
Well the truth is I'm not, and I was trying to think of a way of saying so in a way he would understand.
Then suddenly I couldn't be bothered.
I shrugged my shoulders instead. Still looking him in the eyes, and with a coolness that amazed me, I said:
"Who cares?"
And slowly walked away.
And it's true what i said, which is maybe I guess why he couldn't think of a reply.
Because it won't matter soon. Not even tom people like him.
It won't be an issue to him, just as it is not an issue now to the huge majority of people I deal with.

Unless, of course, things go most terribly wrong...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Like so many other people, i seem to be watching "The Wire" quite obsessively.

I'm on Episode 9 of the third series. It's actually hard to stop.

These box sets seem to take the place of those massive nineteenth century novels: created as a serial, and with the highest ambitions.

To create a portrait not simply of an individual, or even a group of individuals, but of a whole city.

And a whole city that in its turn exemplifies on what's going on in a whole society.

And to do so with a high moral purpose, at least so it seems.

To use all the resources of its medium to do so.

One difference is that while "War and Peace" or "Great Expectations" were created by one individual, in this case the series is created, at least originated by one or maybe two.. but using a massive team of incredibly gifted artists to realise their vision.

Maybe that's important, too: because it's vision is so huge, so about much more than individuals. That it reflects the collective.

Which is what art needs to do now.

Now the age of the individual is over.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

23rd April

A dear friend read from his new collection of poetry tonight.

I know him as Christopher Whyte; but his name on the title page is Crìsdean MacIlleBhàin. The title of the collection is "Dealbh Athar". The poems are written in Scots Gaelic, and translated into Irish Gaelic, in a parallel text, by Gréagóir Ó Dúill.

The title of the collection means, I believe, "Portrait of a Father", and I hope I don't betray a confidence if I say his father called Christopher much suffering.

An incredibly important part of the process of writing this collection was to write the poems in Gaelic. In fact, if I understand right, they could not even have been conceived in English. The strictness of the verse forms enable him to shape his feelings; and the fact that no-one else in the family would be able to read them gave him a certain freedom.

Which had led me to believe that they would be filled with bitterness. Yet the ones Christopher chose to read were filled with a beautiful and profoundly moving spirit of gratitude and reconciliation.

That feeling expressed totally in the melody of the Gaelic as he read.

There was a different spirit in the Irish. Someone in the audience put it beautifully when they said that the Scots sounded like singing; and the irish like a conversation.

The translator explained that the Irish has been codified much earlier than the Scots; and used as a language of administration and government.

And it is that, centuries and centuries of it, that has hardened English and flattened its expressiveness. (It was still comparatively absent in the time of Shakespeare: which is partly, I think, what accounts for its beauty and expressiveness. Why we still thirst for it, without fully understanding it).

And that is why, in his poetry, Christopher will not use it.

And there is a total integrity in that: a faith and a respect for the power of poetry which I totally admire.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

12th April

AN APPLE A DAY opened at Oran Mor, in Glasgow, a week ago.
I was so frightened that day.
I guess part of this was fear for the actors: the script asks a huge amiount of them. They have to travel a huge distance in 55 minutes. They have to give the comedy the space it deserves; and the religious stuff; and the pathos; and the sex.
Among other things.
They had only two weeks rehearsal: mostly in Traverse 2, sometimes elsewhere, and they didn't get in to the space at Oran Mor until 9 am monday.
And the show opened at 1.00.
I was aware, not just of how difficult it was; also how much it exposed them; how they utterly depend upon each other.
This is usual for my work: it takes actors and audiences into places they've never been before.
I can say this without boasting.

But there was something else behind my fear.
Of course both characters are portraits of myself. Not in literal way, equally of course, but poetically yes. Most definitely.
A friend dreamt once, just before one of my openings, that there i was naked on the Traverse stage.
A crucial part of a playwright's skill, I think, is to be able to put yourself out there and yet defend yourse. At the same time.
To be open and closed simultaneously.

I think it had something to do with writing a part for a transsexual, feeling a bit uneasy she was a prostitute (this is a bit of a cliche) and being aware of the far more than personal dimensions of this case.
All the work I've been doing with the trans writers group has made me so aware of its public dimensions.

So i was scared of exposing myself and of misrepresenting us all.

Whether I did or not, I guess in some way it's not for me to say.

I was very struck though, as I went home on the train after a succesful opening, that watching an amazingly skilled actor portraying a transsexual woman had had a profound effect on me.
In the play, SHE is an amazing person who hates herself and does not value herself as she should.

Of course, this seemed very familiar.
As I wen home I found that having to look at her had interrupted that pattern in me. Really for the first time I stopped finding reasons for mistrusting or denigrating my work: and I felt, unequivocally, proud.

I think for the very first time.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April 1st

AN APPLE A DAY opens on Monday.
Last Monday we got through the to the end of the play and I knew the whole script worked.
The relief was amazing... and thinking about it today I realise that I been through the whole usual gamut... from extreme anxiety to relief, to amazed and prideful excitement, and absurd and unrealistic expectations and then back down today to anxiety again...
Yesterday they were in Glasgow, and rehearsing in some new tiny useless space in the morning, apparently, and then in Oran Mor for the first time in the afternoon.. and in that moment of disorientation, from what i can gather, and with a few strangers around to watch, what had seemed funny before now did not make any kind of contact at all.
So there was a fear about them I probably picked up on... and the 'SHE' character I did not recognise any more... and I just got cold chills seeing the whole play run right through for the first time and seeing, it's my life, it's my life that's being played out there... not literally, it never is, but in every other way.. and the thought of the exposure I subject myself too, over and over again, gave me the shivers again.
As it does every time.
Which must be one reason why I'm keeping up my private diary but not this public one at all.
Because I'm putting myself on such intimate display and so I need my private space.

(But again, in another space, the cold eyed professional one, I can see how good the work they are doing is and then I stop being professional and cold and get all excited and the whole cycle begins all over again...)

Because in the end, in so many ways, this is what I live for...


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