Why I don't like what I don't like
I am here at Wooda Farm in North Cornwall. I won their annual arts award which provides a small bursary, a cottage to live in and a studio to work in. I am here to research and develop a new play called "Can I Start Again Please" which will be my next solo performance work. I have never had the luxury of time such as this. I am able to lean into the time, read, reflect and think. In support of that, I am reading the words of other playwrights, not just the plays they have written but also their reflections on the writing process. I am currently reading "Writing in Restaurants" by David Mamet. One essay really stood out for me. It articulated something important and helped me understand why I am so often frustrated when watching theatre and live performance. He said this:
The play is a quest for a solution. As in our dreams, the law of psychic economy operates. In our dreams we do not seek answers which our conscious (rational) mind is capable of supplying, we seek answers to those questions which the conscious mind is incompetent to deal with.
So with drama, if the question posed is one which can be answered rationally e.g. how does one fix a car or should white people be nice to black people - our enjoyment of the drama is incomplete - we feel diverted but not fulfilled. Only if the question posed is one whose complexity and depth renders it unsusceptible to rational examination does the dramatic treatment seem to us appropriate and the dramatic solution enlightening.
I particularly like the phrase 'we feel diverted but not fulfilled'. We live in difficult times, hard times and writing should match or 'enlighten' that hardship. I believe it is the role of the artist and the role of statutory funding to support the endeavour. I want to go into war with words when I write, I want to force them to express the unexpressible and to say the unsayable. I don't want to see (or create) fluffy fly-on-the-wall, style over substance, aesthetically pleasing but flimsy on the content, theatre. This is not the time to be writing and creating work that essentially drugs the audience by providing low level fantasy content. We need to be waking up our audience, energising and, as Mr Mamet said, enlightening them. Fighting talk eh? Maybe this is the opening salvo in my war.