Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

where now: when critics relent and punks dance

In life elsewhere on June 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Body Map

The second of my strictly irregular surveys of theatreland semi-news starts with the triumphant return of two culture heroes – one of them is, admittedly, dead as anything, but that shouldn’t stop us celebrating on Terence Rattigan’s behalf. The NT’s production of After the Dance is currently being positively smothered in polite cuddles. Meanwhile, Michael Clark is concluding his latest tour and giving long-sighted interviews over his shoulder. The picture in the header is from long-time costumier collaborators Bodymap – and, for those less familiar, I now present two videos of his post-punk crossover work…

‘The Shivering Man’, music courtesy of Wire’s Bruce Gilbert, powder FX and micro-moves of Clark’s own genius.

…and The Fall live, with Michael Clark dancers. Bez they are not, and the prospect of radical band plus avant troupe now feels like a curio, a path not taken (the even more integrated ‘Kurious Oranj’ show here).

Meanwhile, Tricycle are halfway through their ambitious Women, Power and Politics series of events including specially-commissioned plays, documentary screenings and an exhibition. Make it a success and we’ll hopefully see a lot more of these very self-reinforcing, complicatedly-engaged seasons.

Last, I have been a beast in other people’s comment boxes recently. It feels weird to link to them, but feeling weird is a sign you’re doing something new (if not necessarily right), so… a) me on plays-as-literature, b) on regional theatre / coverage, c) aaand…

Seems to me another happy symptom of the shift in theatre away from plays which claim to anatomise a very defined individual via rooted psychology. When a character is written this way, it’s an attempt to illustrate Freud’s biology -as-destiny (plus past-equals-future). The achievement is in  the ingenuity and beauty of their clockwork mechanism (exposed accommodatingly to the audience). The play is the process of solving the character – it’s a modernist whodunnit – the further we move on faster the batter.

Refusing biographical specifics will back to the older, more open forms. And, if ‘human universals’ are just as suspect, what we need is theatre-makers to worry less about representing The Truth, accepting no one of us knows The Truth (whose truth?) and approaching the work as a genuinely experimental process. This means a string of irresponsible chemical weddings – gender-shifts, narrative shuffles, perspective-reversals. We have to accept that our initial unexamined ideas, views and even questions are often banal – it’s in joining dots which look initially distant that we often make the real insights.

Which is to say, the more radical our fantasies, the more they follow a real scientific method, the better the chances of us hitting on new (lower case, y’see?) truths, the closer we get to an art as open as life.


some productions: maurice maeterlinck

In classics long after, some productions, video on June 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

Theater mit Carnet (2004)

OK, so one more Kane play (4:48 Pychosis) to cover this coming week after which expect a stab at Howard Barker. Or Edward Bond. Plus all those other people I’ve already promised (Genet, Lorca, Churchill), with an ongoing chronological series of posts on happenings on the way besides. It’s exhausting to imagine.

But – just for today – thought I’d play catch-up by supplementing my previous series on Maeterlinck with a selection of performance clips. I like this feature. Try doing this in a newspaper (and click through for source / credits).

The Death of Tintagiles was the last of Maeterlinck’s plays to feature marionettes alongside actors (although he preferred puppets to people), and apparently relates the story of a queen sending for the surviving child of a family she has had murdered to complete the job herself. She is successful. PS: Maeterlinck did not get on so well in Hollywood (other clips from this almost Lynchian presentation if you click-thru).

And here’s a bold staging of his opera with Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande, played up and down invisible staircases. The clash between their tradional costumery and what seems to be a stark geometric mountain is especially good.

And – not the clearest videocapture of The Blind, but placing the figures on sterile plinths is a nice touch. Additionally, excuse the excruciating ‘eye-opening’ unjoke in the introduction (and thumb-up soft-soaping) in this news piece on a production of the same played entirely by blind people.

the stain of a scream

In classics long after, quotables on June 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Notes on and quotes from Crave (1998) Sarah Kane

“I am lost, so fucking lost in this mess of a woman.” (A)


Famously, fearing her reputation was saturating reactions to her work (for and against), Kane trialled Crave under a pseudonym – and this was possible only because its total rejection of setting or stage direction was so formally remote from the explicit scenes of her previous plays. Likewise, extreme characters make way for genderless, ageless ciphers – A, B, C and M. “…one can almost feel the intoxicating release of Kane’s writing as the borderlines of character evaporate entirely and her imagery moves from physical to textual realisation.” (David Greig)

“She’s talking about herself in the third person because the idea of being who she is, of acknowledging that she is herself, is more than her pride can take.” (C)

Without proxies, there’s a tendency to listen for Kane’s own unfiltered voice – though the text is littered with quotes from other works. “I am an emotional plagiarist, stealing other people’s pain, subsuming it into my own.” (C) In this it perhaps functions in a similar way to TS Eliot’s The Waste Land (itself referenced in the play), but presented in a headlong rush of multiple views and voices recalling Beckett’s Play. Unlike the latter, Crave is never still or clear enough to allow a stable narrative to emerge.

Perhaps the closest to a common element between the voices is some trauma in the past, identified by at least one voice as sexual abuse – the picture painted indelible. “An empty car park which I can never leave,” says C. “That moment which I’ve been hurtling away from ever since,” says A – and the tension between the two goes a long way to embody the permanent aftermath many abuse victims feel. Kane did hint the roles might be played by a pair of older and younger men and women, suggesting classic family dynamics.

Crave 2

In fact, the longer the play goes on, the less real distinction there feels between the voices, the more it begins to feel like a single mind – or body which has internalised a conflict it is doomed to repeat. “Guilt lingers like the smell of death and nothing can free me from this cloud of blood.” (A) The same emotions erupting periodically. The same lies rehearsed and recited. “The same lesson, again and again.” (B) There is the sense of a family splitting just as there is a single wrecked psyche attempting to understand its wrecker. As the play ends, it has turned toward a feeling of almost hysterical heavenly redemption, but there is no resolution – the final positive climax ultimately seems as jumbled a mass of emotions as the lows before – this is the difference between message-based and experiential theatre. It’s like music. It’s like the weather.

“What’s anything got to do with anything?” (C)