Thursday, May 08, 2014

Me and those pesky CATS


The most difficult thing about this time of year is probably that this is the time when they announce the CATS awards.

CATS stands for Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland and they’re a really well intentioned attempt to raise the profile and celebrate the achievements of Scottish Theatre.

It pains me that as a theatre community we haven’t been able to come up with any better than an imitation of London West End’s theatre awards, and I really do think we could do with something better, if I just knew what it was...

But what pains me more, if I’m honest, is that I’ve never won one. And then I get cross with myself for caring.

They got off to a bad start with me with my FAUST.

Actually my FAUSTS: Part One and Part Two. Round about four and a half hours of theatre I was and remain immensely proud of, and beautifully produced by the Royal Lyceum back in 2006.

Working on Part One helped keep me sane while my partner was dying of a brain tumour; and writing Part Two helped me recover from her loss. The whole project is incredibly close to my heart.

In Goethe’s original, Part One ends with the usual destruction of the main female character; but in Part Two something extraordinary happens. The whole work becomes a beautiful and revolutionary affirmation of the power of the feminine. And he ends the work saying:

“It’s through the female
that the world’s set free”.

It’s the Poet who speaks those lines. The poet was a character I invented who in Part One was a man and in Part Two had become a woman. This mirrored my personal journey from John to Jo which I was going through at the time, and maybe that very public coming out added to my vulnerability to the disappointment of the project not winning a single award.

Some critics and members of the public didn’t quite understand Part Two; and looking back I suspect it provoked a little bit of misogyny and transphobia.

Although I didn’t know it, I was also very ill at the time with heart disease; and my mind’s association of the CATS with illness and disappointment hasn’t really been helped by the failure of my next two plays to even win a nomination.

“Every One” and “The Tree of Knowledge” really did deserve better than that. 

And I won’t be going to the awards ceremony at the Citz. But I congratulate everyone nominated and wish them all luck and success.

I’m sure they’ll understand if my smile muscles appear a little strained. It’ll be because I’ll be reminding myself, yet again, that in the long run of things awards really, really, do not matter.

What matters is continuing to create. And continuing to say what needs to be said.

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