|moment to moment in three
movements & coda
If the life that occurs on stage - however grotesque or comic or tragic - strikes its audience as truthful, as whole, as containing meaning, that is the only proof needed that we are not naive in believing the possibilities of our art.
Our art's possibilities reside in the hearts of those who witness it. The theatre is made real in one moment only, in the moment of seeing and hearing. Then it is no more.
In a world that constantly attempts to commodify and homogenise, to rationally engineer the creations of mankind, the theatre is a place that might still allow an eccentric vision; by eccentric I mean singular. But it is a singular vision shared by many, by all who make the act of theatre possible. It is, if you like, a collective dreaming. It is a waking dream, that exists for an hour or two in time, in a particular place, on a particular night. It cannot be commodified. You cannot own it. You can only experience it, and then remember it.
In other words: the theatre can be a kind of rebellion. In defence of what? In the hope of what?
In defence of the moment as experienced.
In the hope of memory that cannot be erased.
Before and after history there exists the moment lived. Within and beyond possession there exists the exquisite fragility of remembering.
Some things happen only once.
How do we hold on to what we cannot possess?
We must firstly believe in ourselves as beings in possession of the idea of self.
I mean that we must trust our feelings.
We must grasp the moment as it quickens, not as it resolves.
For the self as it feels is all becoming and never made.
That the courage required to do this is ultimately the simple the courage to believe that one actually exists, at a certain time, in a certain place, makes its achievement no less daunting.
To break from the cold comfort of acceptance and embrace the endeavour to perceive.
To say 'I am' in the face of 'you are'.
Which means, more often than not, to say 'no'.
The no we say is not one of protest or denial. We need not deny what we reject, nor defend ourselves against it, nor protest against its existence. To do so grants it too much power. As if only by the defeat or erasure of what we reject does our freedom to choose exist.
We need not be defensive. Our freedom to choose exists.
To defend our right to exercise that freedom is all that matters.
It is defended by remembering, always, that such freedom exists.
The denial of such freedom can never be complete.
We must always choose.
We enter the theatre because we are free to, free to allow ourselves those moments of incandescence.
We can turn our eyes upon the stage.
Something is about to happen. It will happen in time. The time within which it happens is both real and imagined.
The language we will hear spoken is both the language we know and its transformation into pure action (and this transformation occurs tonight, in front of us, as it has occurred for more than two thousand years).
The characters whose actions we witness, whose voices we hear, are both human beings like ourselves and the metaphors of our selves, the celebrants and mourners of our state, the savage or saintly expressions of feeling unchanged by history, circumstance or place.
Agamemnon will enter his palace. Tartuffe will hide beneath the table. Lear will curse his daughters one by one. Willy Loman will betray his wife and lose his sons. Roberto Zucco will throw himself from the prison roof.
And then we shall all go home, empty handed.
We will remember what we have witnessed, knowing we will never live through the same moments again.
It will be as if we were mortal.
coda: the bastard as poet and vice-versa
(an autobiographical essay)
Theatre is a hybrid art. It relies on difference.
I came into the theatre as an actor. I soon realised that I was sadly mistaken in my choice of profession. The poetry of my perception was matched only by my failure of its expression.
I admitted my mistake and moved on.
Directing was my next mistake.
Of that brief period of my life I can only say that given my understanding that success teaches you nothing I felt my education almost complete.
I wondered . . . where did my next failure lie?
For I was, I confess without shame, a willing student.
So I turned with uncertain confidence, to writing.
And within its embrace I remain, confidently uncertain.
Which reminds me of an old story.
A man who was poor and hungry was granted a small amount of money by charity.
He rushed to the market and bought three loaves of bread, and with the little money he had left, a small biscuit.
He took the loaves of bread and the biscuit home. With relish he devoured the first loaf, slice by slice. But when the loaf was gone, he was still hungry. And so, slice by slice, he devoured the second loaf, savouring every crumb. But even when the second loaf was gone the man was still hungry.
It was the same with even the third loaf of bread. He ate all of it but he was still hungry. He looked at his table. It was empty again, as it had been for so long. All that was left was the biscuit (which he had kept in his pocket).
So he ate it. And at last his hunger was satisfied.
The man sat back in his chair, content at last.
Shaking his head, the man said to himself:
if only I had eaten the biscuit first, I would not have wasted those three
loaves of bread!
Daniel Keene, September 1999