Sunday, February 19, 2006

My Week of Celebrity Encounters and More Indecision

Fate found me in the offices of Out of Joint Theatre Company earlier this week. I had a cup of tea and a chat with their literary manager, Alex. She was regaling me with her tales of unsolicited scripts, when I asked after their experiences with Talking to Terrorists and the Permanent Way. Long story short, she referred me straight to Max Stafford-Clark himself.

I was unprepared to this sudden turn of events. It was more than surreal to walk into his office, sit in his chair, and converse about his work with David Hare and Robin Soans. I was completely, utterly star-struck. This man is a legend of directing, and I (ME! A bumbling, unrehearsed mess of a girl from a middle-sized town in Pennsylvania) was asking him questions, telling him about my work. He gave me advice and wished me luck...and thank God, I was able to avoid looking like an total idiot (I think). As cliche as it sounds, his work with new writing is an inspiration. Had it been a major filmstar that I met that day, I would have been less intimidated/impressed/in awe.

And go figure, yesterday, Helena Bonham-Carter, Tim Burton, and their son needed help finding a book when they came into the bookshop where I work.

On Friday, Coll and I met with a journalist from the London College of Communications. We're hoping he can help give us some perspective and grounding on our verbatim venture. We're still weighing the pros and cons of involving our performers in the interviewing process. Any thoughts?

I almost saw a play I loved last night. It wasn't Blackbird by David Harrower, it was the play it came so close to being.

In summary, it is an emotionally charged story of a relationship between of 12 year old girl and a 40 year old man, 15 years on from their affair, when they meet again for the first time.

For a play with so many heavy-handed and over-obvious devices in place (mostly due to the direction by Peter Stein...I'm talking musical underscoring for monologues, literal metaphors in the design, and trite moments...), it remained an engaging experience. Nothing new is revealed; you know everything you need to know just from the advertising outside of the Albery. And so, the circumstances are set. You know you are about to view a major confrontation, and it unravels as you would expect: with awkward sensuality, familiarity, passion, anger, misunderstanding, confessions, memories, tears, shouting, questioning, and a few chairs getting thrown. But it is beautifully ambiguous. The most satisfying part of this piece was the fact that I left not knowing what I thought of it; and I still don't.

Jodhi May and Roger Allam were both engrossing and exhausting to watch. The writing seemed off somehow, like it couldn't or wouldn't stylistically acknowledge what it was or how it was, vacillating between poetry and naturalism. The pauses were off, the cut-offs poorly timed, and the monologues segued imperfectly. But it was absorbing!

And here I indulged, as I imagine many of my fellow audience did as well. We were given the opportunity to go past watching the action in front of us. You are intentionally prevented from establishing a clear sense of who is to blame in the situation onstage. You go into your head, into the relationship that defined your existence, the one that is inescapable and unforgettable, for better or worse. And you realize it still haunts you, that it helped bring you to the present day, and that it defies judgment. It was what it was.

Blackbird, written by David Harrower and directed by Peter Stein, continues through 13 May 2006 at the Albery Theatre, London.


Blogger Justin Kownacki said...

What aspects of assistance are you hoping to gather from the interview portion of your project taht you think the actors would be useful in offering? I'm not sure I fully understand the scope of your project. Perhaps it needs a running thread all its own on this blog?

2:40 PM  

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