Sunday, June 3, 2012
The Art of Writing No. 48
The Inspector is a play about the conflict between a dynamic artistic culture and that form of philistinism perpetrated upon the citizens of a country by the social engineering of governmental policies based upon skills, league tables, labour fodder and bottom line accounting. Although it is yet to be performed on stage it has had a number of compliments from upcoming UK West End producers/directors. The problem is that they do not buy into a theatrical construction which is based upon tightly choreographed mirroring between the two time periods. The current preference is for more organic, sprawling artefacts rather than, say, a Borges-like cultivated labyrinth which passes back and forth between 1960s and twenty first century England.
The play balances the different ideological viewpoints through two characters who appear both as young students and later as a teacher and an inspector. Does a teacher proof curriculum, tightly controlled, produce a more humane and economically viable society than that of a looser edifice where art flourishes next to the 3 Rs, IT and continuous testing? How can we create a caring culture which is vibrant in its thinking and whose citizens are naturally critical of its politiciansâ€™ limited understanding of what enriches the spirit? Curiously I watched a news clip the other day which focused on how technological engineering had spurted when think tanks in industry included artists but how, when recession hits it is the artistic input which is junked first.
The play contains violence, sex and humour and in readings appears to be verbally seductive and visually gripping as well as intellectually satisfying.
For me, the difference between playwriting and other fictions is that everything is pared down to sound and image. Like one great Zen aphorism, all of life is contained in the space the audience sees before them and their suspension of disbelief is harder to inculcate in this public arena than in the private fantasy world of personal space where there are fewer intrusions from strangers in a strange setting and where the imagination delivers visuals at will and according to biographic need.
Having staged a number of my plays in small theatre groups over the years I learned a great deal about dialogue, about modulating it through adopting different voices and about exactly how much scaffolding is needed to keep the reader aware of who is speaking without interfering with its flow. Given that Azimuth my recently published trilogy contains so much dialogue and is not Borges-like, being more organic and sprawling then theatre people might find it more acceptable and buy into it! Maybe even make a play from it.