Sunday, August 22, 2010

The last time I was at home during the Festival I can remember seeing many many shows and making a point of writing a blog each day about them.

The difference was that then i did not have a show of my own on, as now.

I'm very proud of my SEAGULL. Proud that it get laughs now, when it really didn't before, because I know that is what Chekhov wanted. Proud that it moves people to tears also sometimes. Proud of the way it has informed and released the actors, somehow, to give such good performances.

Furious that somehow the Company did not get it together to inform the press. (Long story, and a dull one) Proud that in spite of that, and with this an outdoor show put on in the middle of nowhere with next to no publicity, it still gets on average 30 or so a night.

And i try not to dwell on the fact it could a hundred and thirty. And I try not to get too involved in weather forecasts, or worry too much when clouds pass over, as they so frequently do, or when it starts to rain at 7.00. As it did last night, and 3 of my friends who tried to see it were rained off instead.

And then of course, as ever, there's a little bit of me on public display out there each night.

This is not an interesting story to tell, I can't help thinking, but it's one that somehow leaves little room for any others.

As a result I have seen none of the shows I intended to see, except for a lovely children's show called "The Quest for Excalibur" that my dear friend Clunie wrote and directed and that I greatly enjoyed.
That, and a show by a singer called Camille o'Sullivan that I would have enjoyed far more if she had just stuck to singing.

Until Friday, when I got to see 2 shows at the Traverse.

The first was by a young writer, really gifted at that kind of dialogue which expertly dissects how cruel people are to each other when their relationships have gone wrong. I don't enjoy this in the slightest, but it's highly prized, and she is very good at it. Also at teasing out the relationship between private discontent and much larger, wider, and public issues.
But the play quickly spiralled into melodrama and ended up in a total absurdity that saddened me, because the actors deserved a better script, and the writer, too, should never have been allowed to expose herself like this.

"Nineteenth century form", I was thinking. Yet another so-called contemporary play that actually somehow belongs to the 1890's.
And of course I love Chekhov, and I love that form, and I have done my best to respect it and bring out its strengths.
But I get tired of the way people keep using it, still.

As if Brecht had never existed, for instance. Why can't British theatre at least attempt to catch up with Brecht?

But in the evening, I saw "The Author" by Tim Crouch. And that was a different thing altogether.

It so did my heart could to see someone using words, and loving language, and loving what actors can do, to to create 21st century theatre.

One reason it gave me so much pleasure was that when i went in I knew nothing about it.

Another has to do with me: with the fact that when I went in in the morning I felt shy and excluded, as I used to do so often, right from the very beginning, even in 1985. My shyness used to be so intense it would paralyze me; and my sense that I was dull and depressing and bad company made it incredibly hard for me to talk to anyone at all.

It's odd how being out as a transsexual has cured that, somehow. And how when I went into the same theatre on Friday evening I felt instantly at home. Iain McWhirter was there, and I'm going to do some name-dropping now, and that mattered to me because he's been very ill, heart surgery, like me, and I went to see in the row immediately behind him so I can chat with him. And it was nice to see David Leddy, and Adrian Howells, who actually came across to say hello, and I found that very touching, and Lewis Hetherington, a lovely old student of mine, and I thought: I am not a nobody. I am somebody, and this thought gave me a certain pride, somehow, and a sense of happiness which i was all taken up with and so when the show actually started it took me completely by surprise.

They didn't change the lights, one of the performers started talking all of a sudden. Brilliant guy, obviously, because he'd made himself completely invisible somehow and I'd sat next to him without noticing.

So i became part of the show too, and what struck me was that whereas not so long ago i would have wanted to sink under the floorboards and would have curled up in the deepest embarrassment and shame I actually felt very much at ease in this rather bizarre situation.

So that was one source of my intense pleasure. It was like a marker of how much I have moved on. A visible, unmistakeable sign that it is possible to overcome fear and shyness and shame.

There were four performers, as it turned out, whose lives had all been changed by a play. The writer who had created it, the two actors who had performed it, and an audience member who had witnessed it.

The play was supposedly one of those horrible Royal Court graphically violent pieces about the most extreme human suffering that have given the place such a reputation and that I happen to think are immoral, irresponsible, and profoundly reactionary and which, I also think, damage everyone involved.

I have always felt utterly isolated in my concern about all this but to my delight it dawned on me that this was, in effect, what this show was about, that I am not alone in my concern about all this, that others, too, are involved in trying to find a new aesthetic: because what was gradually emerging was that the play had damaged everyone involved.

Audience, actors, and writer. The fiction of it was so vividly and skillfully sustained that when it became clear how this had affected the author approximately ten people walked out of the theatre.

As I get to this point I realise I now want to see the show again, which is almost certainly impossible, because I've a feeling the ending could be better, but I haven't a clue how, and I'd love to find out.

But the courage and the unflinching skill of it was breathtaking.

And, unlike almost anything else I see, it gave me courage and it gave me strength.


A beautiful, honest and amazingly insightful series if reflections on The Author, amongst other things. Thank you.
Thank you for a very beautiful, honest and insightful series of thoughts on The Author and other things too.
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