Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How to read plays

Not long after I wrote in November about the frustrating business of submitting my fringe-produced play O'Leary's Daughters to mainstream theatres last February, I received a response from one of the theatres I had given up on.

They enjoyed reading it, they said, and admired both my 'confidently fluid writing style' and the 'economy of my stagecraft'. For once they did not take the schematic structure and my 'other devices' as mistakes, but unfortuntely they found them 'alienating'. Oh.

Mm. Why, I wonder? None of the audiences in the three fringe shows found them alienating in the least. Those audiences laughed and cried (some coming out with wet faces), and in the 24:7 production they stood at the end of some performances and whistled.

I read on to the end of the sentence: '...and they didn't allow the drama space to breathe.'

Ah! That breathing kind of drama! Not the tight stuff then, not the stuff where you're pulled on an emotional rack, breathless with all your senses attuned... But the breathing stuff, the stuff where you can lie back, relax.... They couldn't be meaning naturalistic drama, could they?

Of course they could. Here's the next sentence: 'It was also felt that the piece might benefit from a deeper exploration of the causes of abuse and a more balanced approach to the nature-nurture debate.' What?!!!! Lordy-lor, this NOT a play about abuse! Yes, all three characters have been abused, and use their childhood abuse as their defining experiences, but this is a play about IDENTITY, not abuse per se!

Gotcha. You didn't want me to write anything so abstract or surreal, in fact even though I'd said in my letter what the theme of the play was, such an idea was so far from your concept of what a play should be, that you couldn't even see when you read it that that's what it was.

You wanted me to write a different play.

No comments: