Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Open Space 2 - Where do writers write from?

The question put by NINA RAPI, was:

Where do writers write from and is there such a thing as should write from?

What follows is a montage of different views expressed in the session, compiled by N.R.

• There is a danger in the UK of writers losing their imagination and artistic freedom, expected to write to order, to abide by certain safe and familiar scenarios and forms, to satisfy ‘bums on seats’ demands primarily.
• Balance needs to be drawn between ‘bums on seats’ and experimentation.
• The curse of British theatre is social naturalism and kitchen sink. No daring.
• A certain rawness of voice and experimentation is missing.
• Too much emphasis is placed on confessional plays, set in living rooms. It’s important to encourage writers to write outside this box and outside their experience, to create ‘effervescent’ plays, more self-consciously theatrical.
• Historically, writers were sent out to factories to write about those experiences and ‘studied reflection’ was encouraged. It was wonderful. (We established in good humour that this must have been in the USSR and possibly in China too, soon after their respective revolutions i.e. socialist realism at its extreme, not necessarily something to aspire to.)
• Verbatim theatre falsely sets itself up as ‘objective’ when it can’t be. It is much better to acknowledge your subjectivity than pretend it’s not there!
• There is too much navel-gazing going on. No reflection on FORM or on how the work is received by the world. Too much emphasis on ‘you’ and ‘heart’.

• People are encouraged: ‘be yourself’. What self is that exactly?
• Identity politics can guarantee an audience for the writers, especially in audience-led theatres. However this is not necessarily a good thing as audience expectations of a homogeneous identity can produce predictable work, limiting the writer’s imagination and artistic freedom. Also, it boxes the writers in as theatres expect them to only write from within that experience.
• The dangers of being the ‘flavour of the month’ were highlighted. How who gets produced is determined by what is in fashion, rather than quality of work or sustaining the development of writers.

• Writers spoke of being driven to explore other ways of presenting plays, e.g. multimedia in clubs.
• Artists have historically created collectives for supporting each other and their ideas. Can writers create collectives to support each other, discuss ideas and organize possible seasons or are writers too ego-driven to do that? Apparently, such initiatives do exist in places like Holland where writers and artists have taken over disused warehouses to organize seasons of new work. Must be: - open – share ‘vision – be worth seeing – take into account ‘accessing’ the work, how you find out it’s on, if it’s NEW, i.e. marketing
• Question arose: are plays that can’t be produced because they are non-marketable?
• ‘Death of the imagination’ in the mainstream was lamented.
• By contrast, young people’s theatre was praised for its imaginative work
• The sharp irony of the fact that only established writers e.g. C.Churchill, M. Crimp, Pinter etc have the freedom to experiment was noted. It’s practically impossible for new, emerging or mid-career writers to experiment and get produced by New Writing venues.
• Fetishization of the new and especially the young limits what can be produced and narrows theatrical fields of vision, as well as producing work that is samey.
• The system here should be more geared to freedom

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