What a Play is For.

I’ve been away directing ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at NVT in Brighton – a big beast of a play, to be sure. So here’s just one, of many, thoughts to come out of the process. It’s about what I think a play is for and our role as creators within the process of making it. Two things: our first task as creators is to tell – to perform – the story. Ie, keep faith with the writer. Our second task is to tell the stories of the people watching by being truthful to the story– to act – and by never forgetting that duty.

In other words, I think that it is our job is to put language and form – something to hear and see – so that they can recognise either at a conscious or at an unconscious level their own lives within the lives of the characters on stage. As a director I can get as much from watching the audience as I do from watching the cast at work. And what I see, if we have done our job as story-tellers, is people ‘getting’ their own stories. Obviously it can be a fully conscious recognition: they ‘see’ a parent, a partner, themselves. At another level it is unconscious and without language; their physicality, especially their faces, ‘tell’ that sudden and powerful surge of emotion. It’s why I believe that an audience can be such a huge part of the story-telling. Imagine the experience of sitting on your own in a theatre watching a play to get a sense of what I mean by that. It’s not empathy for the character. Empathy, however closely we might feel it, still has that ‘me over here; you over there’ sense to it. It’s closer than that. It’s as close as you can get. It is recognising ourselves and that is about learning.

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