Odds and Ends
Edward Bond explains: "Violence shapes and obsesses our society, and if we do not stop being violent we have no future. People who do not want writers to write about violence want to stop them writing about us and our time. It would be immoral not to write about violence."
And Bond himself refers to Saved as a work of incredible, hopeless optimism.
Sarah Kane? A Romantic at heart. Look at the final line of Blasted, where a simple "Thank you" is proof of the extreme humanity at the source of the entire affair, all babies eaten and rapes aside.
These aren't all plays constructed to capitalize on shock and disgust. It isn't just violence for the sake of violence. Not every contemporary playwright is trying to be purposefully provocative; sometimes they actually mean what they are writing. These are elements of our experience, honestly and truthfully depicted with nothing held back, and carefully brought into focus.
At the tiny Gate theatre in Notting Hill, you will find a heartfelt and resonant production of Strindberg's last play, The Great Highway. Rare productions like this will get any dramaturg in a state of excitement. Oddly enough, this was my first station drama, and its status as such intimidated me...that is, until the production unfolded. The traditional stations were replaced by a staggered and overlapping system of gigantic photographs, the images lost to almost all of them and the corners curled with age, and it is here the action unfolds. The proximity of actors to audience in this tiny black box made it strangely and hauntingly accessible. The text itself ebbs and flows with Strindberg's poetry and prose, made immediate by the remarkable lead. We follow this man on his journey through memory, and are rewarded by the things he meets along the way, even unto himself at the close. It is a long play, but an investment in art and classic means that we should be careful not to lose sight of in the theatre we make today.
The Great Highway continues through March 4 at the Gate Theatre.