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.