Thursday, December 13, 2007

The play's the thing

Interesting piece by David Edgar in the Guardian wondering why new writing in theatre is no longer an arts council priority. He talks about the "supply side" - i.e. lots of actors wanting to come out of university and do more physical based theatre. It's hard to know whether this is an issue or not - audiences certainly want (or can be more engaged by) a range of types. I'm more interested in written drama but even here there's such a variety - or possible variety. I've seen both "Shopping and fucking" and "The Weir", and though the latter was entirely traditional and the former was far more "modern", I felt that Ravenhill's play was already a little past its sell-by date when I saw it in Manchester. It may well be that by the time I'd seen it, I felt I'd seen so much of this kind of in-your-face funny-urban-trauma drama, on film, on stage, in performance. The dark sleepy ghost story of "The Weir" still stays with me however. As Edgar points out, there's lots being written - but is there an appetite for new plays? As Fictionbitch recently pointed out there's a question mark about who goes to new theatre (at least outside of London.)I guess my own instinct, at least up here, is that there is more of a performance based ethos, but its not necessarily a lack of writers, but a tendency to need regional or local theatre to have an educational or social purpose as well as a literary or dramatical one - always a dangerous game. I remember having a small piece performed at the Contact one time, and because the actors were young, working class Mancunians, it changed the piece - which was basically set in a school less urban, and more middle class. Not necessarily for the worse, but it wasn't this writer's intention - and in the end I didn't finish the play, because I could see it would have very little hope of being put on in one of the youth orientated theatres I was aiming at. Over the last few years Manchester's 24/7 festival has taken some of the techniques of street theatre ("Lets just do it!" "Lets have a festival!") and opened it out to dramatists and directors. Never has there been so much new writing put on in Manchester. The question is, who's watching?

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