Archive for the ‘bio’ Category

here to start with sarah kane

In bio, classics long after on May 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Three month pre-development redraft of my play, ‘Mirror Modes’ finished yesterday and I’m officially back in the room.

So, next: the great lost hope of recent British drama. It’s sobering to wonder what more depth of impact Sarah Kane could have made to contemporary theatre had she lived longer. I don’t intend attempting an answer, and the five plays she left us make a good case for her protean unpredictability being precisely what we miss the most (although, in a different mood, I and many others might cite vertiginous vanity-free honesty and/or acid-wash emotional brutalism).

Sarah Kane

As per my MO, then, today I’ll offer a clutch of links to further info on her life and work before moving on to a read-thru of the plays with more links plus the pick of quotes from each. For B.A.S.I.C.S., find her wikipedia page above (itself linking to more resources such as Iain Fisher’s passionately put-together site, featuring production photos and multi-authored discussions of her work). For a reasoned and authoritative bio, see Aleks Sierz. Most personally, Mark Ravenhill revisits his relationship to her as living peer and immortal competitor.

And this brings us to the difficulty of engaging with her work on its own terms – from the hypocritical furore blown up by sensationalist press around her debut, Blasted, to the sad fact, the inescapable act of her suicide less than five years later, no writer of the Nineties and its In-Yer-Face tendency has been so lionised, romanticised, mystified. The testimony of those who knew her consistently reject this, and we must respect them.

Kane’s plays are amongst the most performed of any recent writer not because of her public or private life, not because they shocked (such currency loses worth fast), not because they were authenticated by her troubles, but because they used radical form to incise closer to life (not fantasise an elaborate shelter), precisely because the art was bigger than the artist, and – prosaically – because the words on the page still resonate with makers who find the same thing happens via stage to audience. Her career was brief, but her legacy phenomenal, the possibilities she exposed with her controlled explosions cracking open new paths for those who followed. That’s what I’m celebrating this week on Subjectiviste.


here to begin with maeterlinck

In bio, classics long after on January 27, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Time for an elegant sideshuffle – expect more Brecht in time, but I have three dusty old hardbacks I need to return to the library, so I’m going to write about the Nobel Laureate who wrote them before my fines hit double figures (again). We’re talking Maurice Materlinck, and you can find a wikibio behind that link (includes: roller skates, proto-surrealism, socialism, plagiarism, actors considered inferior to marionettes, ‘static drama’ and a script which induced Samuel Goldwyn to ‘burst out of his office, exclaiming: “My God! The hero is a bee!”‘)

maeterlinck portrait

Considered a Symbolist (click-through to Jean Moreas’ Symbolist Manifesto), his works were extravagant, cryptic (if often childlike) fantasies popular among the Parisians of the fin-de-siecle – myths minted against naturalism. A sympathetic attitude would see Debussy build an opera around Pelléas et Mélisande (this adaptation-by-composer rather than the standard commissioning of a libretto would ensure it was formally innovative). In the words of Maya Slater, via her introduction to Oxford’s ‘Three Pre-Surrealist Plays’ (lining Maeterlinck’s ‘The Blind’ up with Jarry and Apollinaire):

“He discards the historical dramas and drawing-room comedies alike. Equally, he rejects naturalism with its adoption of the crude details of ordinary life… Instead, he focuses on a different tradition: poetry… His predilection is for mysticism and metaphysics. He is drawn to myth and legend. He makes no attempt to situate his characters – to give them roots… If they seem mysterious and even incomprehensible, so much the better. Similarly, the problems that provide the intrigue of the plays are visibly human dilemmas, but stripped of their contemporary trappings.”

Most of the contemporary ‘re-imaginings’ watchable online made me cringe so hard my ribcage clenched like fists but there is a clip culled from a 1918 film of what’s considered his masterpiece ‘The Blue Bird’ which features veiled children and heavenly lovers literally separated at birth… (and here’s Shirley Temple reading it on radio..!)

Detached tangent: you need to see the cover of Aleksandr Blok’s book ‘Theatre’.

Blok's 'Theatre'