Saturday, January 28, 2006

History in the making?

New writing is a pet project of mine. Part of my job is to keep a pulse on movements and trends in the literary sphere, and encourage the development of innovative new work. Selfishly, I'll admit that part of my interest lies squarely in the fact that I'm bored by a lot of what is out there. Or perhaps, more idealistically, the incredible minds ARE out there writing plays, and I just haven't found them yet. Well, I've found three: David Gregg, Colleen Campbell, and Clare Pophale. Remember those names; once these three hit their stride, they are going to be amazing. I hope you're all happily awaiting our foray into verbatim theatre, to be premiered early this summer. Writers are curious creatures. They have to be coaxed; you have to gain their trust. As one of Dietz's characters in Fiction once said, writers don't like to write, they like to have written.

With that in mind, I've been ushered in the direction of the Royal Court Theatre, whose tradition of new writing is in its 50th year. This is where Osborne's legendary Look Back in Anger was first staged (1956). The current celebration is stretching over the next few months as well, with rehearsed readings of contemporary memorables and new productions staged. Today, I found myself the happy recipient of a 10p standing ticket, which was upgraded to circle seating. Take advantage of those matinees, I tell you! Most London theatres do two shows on Saturday.

Stella Feehily's O Go My Man turned out to be a pleasant, if fragmented, peek into the state of new writing. Directed by Max Stafford-Clark, I was expecting big things. I hear his name often, tossed about by schoolmates as if he were Christ himself. That happens to me quite a bit here, as I find my footing in an entirely different theatrical environment. On the upside, I have very few preconceptions of my own, and shows that would otherwise be hyped have no special importance to me--a foreigner with the lovely chance to make her own judgments. There were bits of the script that stood out, rhythmically and dramatically fluent, while others fell into a more common tone. And while the storyline grew convoluted and unsure, I was fighting for a way in; whose story was this? I can't help but think that O Go My Man is a beautiful play waiting to be liberated from its trappings by the swift and effective hand of a dramaturg or editor.

O Go My Man continues through February 11, in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square.


Blogger Justin Kownacki said...

There's something to be said for context, but I appreciate those times when a new work (or a classic) can be appreciated solely on its own merit, rather than being burdened by 50 years of hype, expectation and "a broader understanding of the work's place in the author's historical canon," etc. That's where mediocrity gets a chance to shine a little brighter than it usually would; someone decided Artist X's work deserved a little extra trumpeting regardless of its inherent quality, and the audience ends up paying the price.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

I'm an American recently returned to NYC after 2 years studying in London ( I'm looking forward to reading your blog and seeing what you find. When I was there, the company I enjoyed the most was Kneehigh, their Bacchae especially. The Mime Festival always seemed to promised exciting shows that disappointed me in the end.

As for Howard Barker, I have to say that while I sometimes find him interesting in print, what I saw of his recent work (at the Riverside...can't remember his company's name) was pretty dreadful.

9:38 AM  
Blogger MattJ said...

I feel like I am in a constant state of grappling with what "new work" is out there, and I am very eager to discover it and put a focus on it. Keep us updated! And thanks for your blog, welcome aboard from abroad. We're happy to have you.

11:02 AM  

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