Making theatre, or Against The Cauterization of Faith, Love, and Hope.


I’ve been thinking… I have been with people who’ve been mentioning directors who love actors. I have also been in the company of those who’ve been discussing theatremakers who really don’t care about what the actors are doing, or who don’t understand what it is actors *do*. I have been thinking about makers who don’t seem to be making for the audience, or perhaps it seems to me that their relationship with the audience is strained, painful, defensive, negative.

NOW. Am I being a hypocrite? I absolutely feel that an artist should be able to make in the way that they want, and to make what they want, but here I am thinking about the what I think is the right way to go about making theatre? I suppose it is not hypocritical to say, look, make what you want, in the way that you want, but I do not have to like it. But is what I’m really saying, if you make it this way, I am almost certain that what you make is going to be something that I don’t think has any positive value? Am I really being that fascistic?

I think there’s no point in expecting or telling an artist to represent society, “real life”, to address issues that are “relevant” etc. That’s not how art works. I do, in case there is any doubt, believe that theatre is art, and that theatre makers are artists. I do not understand why there is a divide between art and theatre in the UK i.e. I know very few theatre makers (directors, writers, actors, designers in the field) who consider themselves artists. ART is a scary word. It still scares me but I very clearly aspire to make things that other people consider precious and art. That much I know. Is everything an artist makes art? Not necessarily, and there is also the entire possibility that a artist hardly ever makes good art.

So. Where did I start with all of this. Yes, with directors, actors and audience. Arguably the director is one of the key artists in the making of a show (of course, a show can be made in many different ways, but let’s say that traditionally, a script has been set, and the director is driving the live making of it). The actors are part of the tools the director can work with (add in the design elements etc). First there needs to be some real recognition of what your tools are able to do. Then, what about love? When I was choosing my first laptop, a friend said, go to the store. Touch it. Feel it. You have to love your instrument, the thing you’ll make beautiful things out of. This initial love, this active choosing of your tools is the start of a relationship and journey which will carry everyone beyond anything they can imagine. Human beings are extraordinary. I cannot bear the philosophy of cauterizing expectation, faith and hope as a preventative measure against disappointment. Disappointment is more complicated and maybe we just have to grab it by the balls until we defeat it. It might become yet another thing we feel and disregard, like, peckishness.

Actors are funny things. Human beings are already complicated and actors are required to do even more extraordinary things. Why does there seem to be some sort of arms length strangeness about the accessibility of artists, actors included? Are we jealous and resentful when we’re presented with what seems like easy- AH! A thought. Perhaps, and this is not yet thought through, well, you know how it is to walk into a gallery and scoff at a painting which “a 3 year old could have done”? Well, that makes me think of the/my stereotypical resentment towards a person who is privileged enough to have had the leisure and ease to make it, public recognition of being an artist, more education or knowledge (my jealousy) that they might be withholding from me, the audience. Do I think it’s a joke on me? Have the got away with tricking people? Do I hate the artist because I don’t trust them?

Perhaps trust is more integral to art that we think. I have never actually thought about whether or not I trust artists, apart from recently, when I had to write in collaboration with a dead poet, O’Hara, and I hated him because I didn’t trust him as a person. I often talk about whether I trust an actor on stage: Do I believe that they aren’t going to injure themselves, that they won’t bump into furniture, that they actually care about what they are saying, that they believe in the show they’re doing, that they give a shit about the audience.

I trust audiences to be much, much smarter than writers currently seem to be writing for. I want to hear about the kind of thing theatre technicians would like to see. I trust writers to write fewer words which have huge power. I trust musicians to compose featuring dischord, irregularity and silence.

It is not the case of ever knowing that a person is 100% sound, safe, and never going to disappoint you. Is it more about allowing enough space for both parties to extend beyond that initial narrow glimmer of potential? This support, generosity of understanding, acknowledgement of mutual fallibility – it’s all part of the process of making anything at all – is what leads to the best kind of reward: The surprise of something bigger and more glorious than all of the parts.

Why are you doing what you do?

Without love, art is dead.

Is this true? Is this what I believe at the moment?

Love, life, art – no one ever said it’d be plain sailing.

2 thoughts on “Making theatre, or Against The Cauterization of Faith, Love, and Hope.

  1. I love this post. It is thought-provoking. I can only speak for the audience side, but for me, fallibility is always what makes us fall in love with performances. Perfection can come off as fake or even wooden.

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