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Friday 15 April 2016

Uncovering the author's voice


Edward Albee's insights into play reading brought to my mind my early days of playwriting. Looking back now I realize that while indeed I did have the great disadvantage(?) of living in a non-digital age, it was still a time when radio and  television reigned  supreme and I was exposed to, and avidly followed, a deluge of great plays, from continental masters like Ionesco, Pinter, Becket, Sarte, Betti, Pirandello, Strindberg, Ibsen, Genet, Chekov, Anouilh, Durrenmatt, Havel,    et al - all played with supreme mastery by British and Italian artists - to the American masterpieces of Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, to name but a few.

RAI TV was a cultural gold mine, both on the single (yes ONE) channel in BW, as well as radio.  The BBC World Service came a close second with a constant supply of great radio drama (Osborne, Pinter, the late Arnold Wesker, Stoppard). What else could a budding playwright ask for?  Well, there was also the cinema, where the likes of Fellini, Pasolini,  Bergman, Truffaut and Russell reigned supreme.  Truly a time that no matter what advances the digital age has still in store, it will be hard put to equal in quality, constancy and depth. So there it is, you missed out, brother. No matter how many channels you flip, your TV will leave you hungry.

And yet, even if all these sources no longer exist today, no playwright worth his salt could dream of not hitting the written works of these past masters (as well as contemporary ones). Trying to sit down and write a play without having even at least read the past and present  masters (much less watched their works), is like  trying to compose music when you have only listened to Rap.

Reading plays does indeed have great merits and not just for a casual devotee. Because - as Albee puts it so well:

  •  "Is seeing these plays in performance a different experience than seeing them through reading them? Of course. Is it a more complete, more fulfilling experience? No, I don't think so."

I don’t think so, either.

But then, I can only convince you if you do sit down to read plays.  And if you find them dull, if your experience is not fulfilling, then indeed, go back to listening to Rap. Or go do what floats your boat best  –  in any case:

“Apply yourself, fool, you can live out yo dreams, too
Imagination can create the truth.
                                                                                               Stolen - Curren$y