The story you write

20 Jan

The story you write is never the story that happened.

This phrase came to me walking home through windy, chilly Dublin on this January night, post-show, post-drinks, and came truer than I expected, here in this B&B that pretends to have WiFi when it’s nicked from over the road and the weak signal flickers out. My blog draft died shortly after the bit about the story of falling, jumping/ falling, from the top of a tall building. In the show I saw tonight The World In Pictures, this introductory story left “you” suspended— (the story goes something like this… You come to a city you know a little bit, but not much. You have a meeting in a couple of hours, but with time to kill, you decide to wander the city. You walk down a street where they’re diggin up the road)— and left me suspended, somewhere in cyberspace, which seems more and more the place we live. In between the materiality of places and walking and the elsewhere of phones and text and the virtual life that is narrated and projected into and out of these actual cities. As if places can only come into focus from the distance of a force-field, electro-bubble presence that travels, like atmosphere, around the traveler. The MySpace of travel.

I haven’t been to Dublin before and it struck me very forcibly how young, how Euro and elsewhere this city is. The very tangible stones and history of it cannibalized as setting for drifting through, romantic backstory, the weave.

Anyway as Terry begins the show (sort of— after a painful acting gag) talking us into the story, with this second person, very laid-back and unactorly tale, I’m remembering the city I just walked through and the feel of the air in my face, the river in my mouth, I understand why Dublin is a writer’s city; the river flows so fast. Terry’s tale involves climbing an apartment building (in that aimless, flaneur mode) to the top, where there’s a great view… you look out… over the city… you look down… you imagine yourself lying there, perhaps “one leg stuck out at a funny angle”. Eventually you can’t think of a good reason not to fall, to satisfy this curiosity about what it would look like, what it would be like. And you slip over the edge and….

The story ends, or suspends, with you about to hit the pavement, and then we are into the history of the world. And it’s bad. Very, very bad. When Forced Entertainment say they are into cheap theatrics and a fascination with bad acting, they’re not kidding. It’s like watching a completely stupid kids’ pageant, cooked up on a Saturday afternoon with what’s in the closet. The point, of course, is that this is History as we are told it, and it’s all very partial and Eurocentric. The actors gallop and cavort around to terrible fake-movie sound-tracks and I am completely bemused. The problem I have is that I get it, and then it keeps going. The sine curve theory of bad theatre (it’s so bad it becomes good— to paraphrase Rick Massimo’s sine curve theory of humor) doesn’t work for me here, and I think that’s because they are too knowing about failing, about the stupidity of it, and in knowingit’s bad, there’s no risk. It winks too hard.

I have to wonder if I just hate theatre. I mean, most theatre people do at some stage. I have never really understood actors, or the things that interest them. I don’t really like watching people run around or show off on stage, and that actually extends to watching them knowingly send up such antics. There needs to be one more twist on the curve, or something. There’s lots of moments I really like— the vacuuming up the fake snow while the others are still cavorting; the multiple stage deaths— but I would like to see them do something for real. Even do something fake for real. It’s too easy to pomo it out.

What they do brilliantly, though, is persevere and share a process. Not the fake sharing a process of Regional Development theatre but actually hang out in the bar and drink and argue and chat. They deserve the audience and the following they have, and it is incredibly different to sit in a bar after a show and have animated conversations with other audience members who’ve seen three or four of their shows and can talk about THIS one in terms of a larger project—a kind of company soul.

Of course as a playwright I am desperately jealous of this. I wonder if the whole point of this mad expedition of mine, following these shows through several cities, is not to continue the mud-wrestling with my major question / unease over a decade or so— how can writing perform? How can writing and making be part of a process so that theatre isn’t just either a bunch of actors wanking around on stage together (the ensemble theatre) OR a deadly dull script-centered moribund Theatre Piece? There has to be some way to bring life and a performing journey, a life, back into making work that doesn’t write off writing, that can be layered and sophisticated and writerly as well as spectacle and collaborative and physical and engaged in the present time of the audience.

I will probably edit and do a post-Guiness, calm and more thoughtful version of this tomorrow. in the meantime— if I can get the damn wifi to stick, I’ll post this and have another cup of tea (one of the good things about this B&B, they bring you a tray of tea on demand, 24 hours/ day) and then sleep the dead sleep of jetlag.

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One Response to “The story you write”

  1. Rick Massimo January 20, 2007 at 5:36 pm #

    Just to clarify, the sine curve theory of humor posits that when you do exactly the same thing, over and over again, it starts out funny, then gets unfunny, then gets funny again. (I have at least as much of a hard time with the “so bad it’s good” school thing as anyone.) And when a piece progresses even non-linearly, the sine curve theory doesn’t apply. Things can always get worse.

    But I’m sorry it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped. There’s always another show, though.

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