Monday, July 13, 2015
Performance as a kind of meditation...
Once upon a time I used to be a theatre reviewer. It came about because, after twenty years of trying, I finally came to understand that I would never be a novelist.
And that I was a playwright instead.
My difficulty was that I knew nothing about contemporary theatre. I’d hardly seen any. I’d spent the previous ten years working as a bus conductor, and a nurse, and a yoga teacher, and a co-counselling teacher, and becoming an expert on the theatre of 17th century Spain.
And by then neither me nor my partner had any paying jobs. We had a baby daughter instead.
And so I couldn’t afford theatre tickets.
A dear friend suggested I become a theatre reviewer on the Fringe, and so get tickets for free.
Which I did. Allen Wright of the Scotsman gave me a job reviewing for the 1981 Fringe, and then, being a kind and generous soul, kept me on.
Then, as now, I had strong views about what I saw; and if a production gave me a wretched time I would very forcefully say so. And equally if it filled me with joy.
I assumed no-one was reading and that what I said didn’t matter. Which was a big mistake; and I know now that along the way I very deeply hurt many people. Which I still feel bad about.
And what made it worse was that people enjoyed my negative reviews much more than my positive ones. And praised me for them.
My capacity to injure seemed to be much more highly valued than my gift for praise.
Which tells you something about the kind of society we live in…
Feedback I’ve had about this blog makes me realise that in my attempts to describe the rehearsal process I’m making exactly the same mistake.
It’s so much easier to write about the difficulties. So much harder to describe the joys.
I don’t seem to have the vocabulary somehow.
I was listening to an interview with Arvo Part yesterday. The problem in trying to know how to set one note after another, he said, is essentially the same as the problem of knowing how to set one foot in front of another.
And unless you’re in the right place in your self, you will never write the right music.
This spoke to me so deeply, because I meditate morning and evening, and because of something that happened on Friday.
Dear Director Susan, who is wise this way, and in many other ways also, pointed out to me that performing, too, is like meditation in that you are trying always to keep yourself centred, and constantly losing it, and then coming back without judgement.
And then losing it and then finding it again…
Today, Monday, was about trying to remember this and put it into practice in the space as I staggered through a rough draft of how the production will be.
And this evening, as I think about it all, I realise in a way there’s not much point in trying to describe the joy and fascination of it.
What matters is whether I’m able to remember this, and keep myself in the present moment, in front of an audience.
And whether you feel it, dear reader, if you manage to come and be part of an audience.
And so help create it…
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