Out of the Wings

‘Nothing is so dated as the avant-garde’

David Johnson’s pithy aphorism at the symposium, ‘nothing is so dated as the avant-garde’, was debated in relation to Play Without a Title in which Lorca transgresses the division between the audience and the stage. One delegate of the symposium insisted the theme of this ‘impossible play’ was just as relevant today as it ever was. The notion of questioning the boundaries between fiction and reality does seem to be pertinent in a climate where, as many people have commented, the story of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s misdemeanors dominated our media for a week while other more urgent narratives were sidelined. Pirandello’s earlier play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, of 1921 explores many of the ideas which Lorca represents in Play Without a Title. Rupert Goold’s production currently showing at the Gielgud Theatre in London is a radical reworking of the play. It is set not in a dress-maker’s shop, but in a television studio where the production team are making a film about Dignitas. The classic Modernist theme of the relationship between fiction and reality is examined by characters in the TV production team through their attempts to define the parameters of drama and documentary:

‘ACTRESS: I thought this was a docu-drama?

EDITOR: No, no, no no. This is a drama-documentary.


ACTOR: Sorry, what’s the difference between a docu-drama and a drama-documentary?

EDITOR: A drama-doc is what we’re doing – a documentary with some dramatic reconstructions, whereas a docu-drama is a scripted film of real life events.’

At the symposium Jonathan Heron, the director of Play Without a Title, asked: what is our real contact with violence, with the violence in Iraq, for example, other than that which is safely mediated through our television screen? Perhaps this is where the nature of the translation itself comes into play. Do Six Characters in Search of an Author and Play Without a Title serve as valuable reminders that we trust the media at our peril? Rupert Goold and Ben Power’s version is framed by additional scenes, the last few of which seem to act as a kind of manifesto. The executive producer of the television company is met on stage by Rupert Goold and Ben Power, who play themselves:

‘EXEC: […] I’m sick of these slavish, academic translations. We got rid of them in film and telly years ago. It’s not like the original isn’t there to be faithfully performed afterwards […] You know, Pirandello did about six different versions, I mean, he never left the thing alone, so we need to be clear which one we’re getting authorization for.’

Goold and Power’s version serves as a call for classic works of the avant-garde to be radically updated if they are to provoke their audience as Pirandello and Lorca intended.

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Out of the Wings

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