Selected plays (Pieces Courtes)  Theatrales


I generally prefer string quartets to symphonies.  In a quartet the contribution of each instrument can be clearly heard and perhaps understood.  The dialogue possible between the instruments can be extremely subtle, infinitely complex; or it can be the most basic  kind of call and response.  This dialogue is, essentially, dramatic.  When combined to make a single 'voice', the four instruments of a quartet can create a sound unlike any other, can seem at once like a tempest trapped in a bottle or the chaotic tumult unleashed from a battle field.  This urgent dramatic power, this lyric density is what draws me to quartets.  Yet what ultimately keeps me listening to them is their scale.  Their scale is human.  I don't know of any other way to describe it.  To me the dramas of quartets are human dramas; in the complexities they evoke and the responses they demand is the stuff of mortality.

But I'm supposed to be talking about plays. 

I have been writing for the theatre for twenty years.  I write both long and short plays.  The plays in this volume are mainly the latter.  I began writing them a few years ago, as a formal exercise.  By which I mean I began to write them for my own pleasure and education.  I had no idea what I would discover, no preconception of what might be possible. 

Poetry was, and remains, my starting point as a writer.  It is often my 'place' of solace and sometimes the absolute proof of my purgatory.  Being alive is very rarely easy.  Poetry can often embrace both the joy and the despair of believing that to live is to know, that to know is to say, that to say is to be heard and that to be heard is impossible.  And yet . . . . 

I simply wanted to see if it were possible to write plays that 'worked' like poems.  What do I mean?  I suppose that depends on how you think a poem works.  What does a poem do? 

If experience is the stuff of art then what does art do to experience?  Perhaps it reduces experience to something manageable, understandable, consumable.  It makes an 'artefact' of it; the evidence of something.  You can buy it, you can sell it.  You can do without it.

But it might also 'compress' experience.  For me, a poem is the first cold pressing of experience.  Something essential is extracted from the chaos of living; from the unknown something that can be known is made, within the tumult a silence is discovered, out of confusion clarity is born.  And it is always temporal, a reminder of our mortality, a pleasure that insists on its difficulty.

When my plays are performed what occurs on stage occurs only once.  Nothing can be repeated, although everything is repeated each night the play is performed; the same words, the same movements, the same ending.

Repetition either deadens or enriches experience.  The theatre is a place where no repetition is ever the same as the last.

A poem is renunciation of the privilege that denies mortality: it is neither eternal nor immediate.  It is both.  A poem exists only in the moment it is read or heard.  The rest is memory.

But I'm supposed to be talking about plays.

The plays in this book have sustained me and taxed me.  They are where I discovered the theatre all over again.  They are my dialogue with the reality of theatre and the theatre of reality.  They are my cold pressings. 

I think of them as poems.  Perhaps they are reluctant poems, uncertain of their birth yet confident of their being.

My string quartets.

When you listen to a string quartet you can often hear the breathing of the players.