Sunday, February 27, 2011


Socrates didn't write anything down. Like a lotta folks, he wasn't overly gone on this new-fangled technology of 'reading'. He claimed it ruined one's memory and turned your mind to mush. Luckily Plato and a couple of playwrights of the day were a bit more progressive and had absolutely no problem with writing whatsoever, which is how come we know today that Socrates ever said anything at all.

But he had a point. The knowledge we have in our minds is very different from the knowledge we have in our libraries.

Consider this bit out of Huxleys' Brave New World

He was digging in his garden–digging, too, in his own mind, laboriously turning up the substance of his thought. Death–and he drove in his spade once, and again, and yet again. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. A convincing thunder rumbled through the words. He lifted another spadeful of earth. Why had Linda died? Why had she been allowed to become gradually less than human and at last … He shuddered. A good kissing carrion. He planted his foot on his spade and stamped it fiercely into the tough ground. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. Thunder again; words that proclaimed themselves true–truer somehow than truth itself. And yet that same Gloucester had called them ever-gentle gods. Besides, thy best of rest is sleep and that thou oft provok'st; yet grossly fear'st thy death which is no more. No more than sleep. Sleep. Perchance to dream. His spade struck against a stone; he stooped to pick it up. For in that sleep of death, what dreams? …

You cant dig and read Shakespeare at the same time. If you're going to dig and contemplate death and think about Shakespeare simultaneously then you have to have the stuff inside your head. A head can only hold so much, and it takes a lot more programming time than the time it takes to write or print or download from the interweb, but I do think that the above passage illustrates that really learning things results in a more complete understanding of, and a more complete relationship with, the content.

As a bloke like as what has learnt plenty many songs and plays,- (to the point that he can regurgitate the words accurately and in the correct sequence, in spite of an all-encompassing terror,) I feel I know what I'm on about. I think that this process, for me, explains my addiction to thayture and thayture related shite. There is, or should be, a mental dedication to the work which is greater than that of 'second-take' mediums such as TV or fillums, and also, there is an almost atavistic respect for the human performer ( who shares the room and air with us) that we do not have for the slickest, most perfect, most believable recorded stories.

Now, I do get that recording things and methods of recording have a value, inestimable value in some cases; but the ubiquity of recording methods and devices and playback mediums must, in some sense, devalue things*.

*and perhaps also stuff.

I'll try to explain:

When Munster beat the All-Blacks in Thomond park there was no video coverage of the event because it coincided with the launch of Ireland's second television station, (RTE2) and they needed all the cameras for that.

When John Breens' play: 'Alone it Stands', was in its' first rehearsal, I was working in Limerick for RLOtv, and we made a programme about the upcoming play and the original match. The lack of any real record (there was about 8mins worth of grainy amateur footage) was bemoaned by many we interviewed but one team member (off-camera) had an interesting point of view;

"Nobody filming it, sure that's part of it... Nobody filmin' it, that's great, that's why people talk about it... nobody filmin' it made it the best game of rugby anybody ever saw... if we had film of it there wouldn't be the same stories, if we had film of it and you could see the match and then it wouldn't be so impressive..."

I remember this point of view set me a-pondering.

The lack of a recording turned that rugby match into a 'You-would-have-had-to-have-been-there' thing, and so it was recreated a thousand times over orally to attentive audiences in pubs, on park benches, and at kitchen tables. The event itself was an unprecedented and significant one, but the human element of it's recreation elevated it again to a mythic status.

Theatre and live music are 'You-would-have-to-had-been-there' things.

There is something different, something better, about actual human generated music and actual human generated stories that makes up for the absence of perfect studio sound or greater believability. As an Art College mate, (from the Careys' Road, who I dragged along to Waterford Youth Theatre's 'Our Town') remarked: "Play's make you think more". They do, and it's great. But there is no way to capture it.
There is no way to record that special feeling with any degree of accuracy. You would have had to have had been there. That's the point.

A play takes so much work that it's understandable that the people involved want some sort of record, something to show for all their industry; but I have always felt that even the most well-shot video recording of a play cheapens it. It places the actors and the stage on the same flat screen that Hollywood blockbusters, and high-end content, edited to the nanosecond, come from and unfavourable comparison is inevitable.

The projected performances, that are necessary for effective stage-acting, seem ham-fisted and ridiculous, and instead of being a 'You-would-have-to-have-had-been-there' thing, the play becomes something that you can watch later, if you feel like it, and talk all the way through (and comment to your partner "She's no Meryl Streep is she?").

As an atheist, with thayture as my religon substitute and the stage as my altar, I regard the presence of a video-camera in a theatre as sacriligious to my beliefs, and I think Socrates would agree with me. When the Dublin fringe told us they required a videoclip of 'Spinal Krapp', I was absolutely horrified. Now with this play (5 kinds of silence) another Dublin festival has asked for the same thing. I'm only one person in a collaborating group and so I just have to grit my teeth as I did with Spinal Krapp and just do the damn thing but I hate it. They have no right to demand it of us, it's like telling a Christian you want them to spit on a crucifix.


  1. Clips, well clips, I wouldn't think you would have much problem with. Especially with the "Spinal Krapp" one working so well (at least it did for me, who malheuresment has not yet gotten the chance to see it.)

    The thing about clips, is they're great promotional material, which frames the play in a cinematic mode (not a theatrical one) to hook people in to experience the theatrical performance. A performance which is inevitably more moving and superior as an experience to the recorded cinematic clip (if you do it right).

    Which, the clip for the play you are currently appearing in, did this morning as I forwarded the link onto a bunch of fellow travellers who would be on for a bit of the aul' thayater.

    I remember you once saying to me that a piece of art (whichever art you choose) is almost valueless unless people see it.

    So clips, though inferiour, and potentially degrading to the source material though they may be, increase the amount of people experiencing the play, and by the previous paragraphs reasoning increas the arts value, by affecting more people.

    Of course, the fiming of entire performances, takes a enveloping emotional, intellectual and even physical experience, and puts it in a box.

    That box that films are so carefully manipulated into, a play in the same space degrades with additional artifical confines, not envisioned in the original flash of creation, during the writing, and thus not compensated for.

    Unless of course, its a play with a picture frame in front of the stage that the action takes place within. But not many of those abour are there?

    Peace and Hope


  2. You do make a good point there Papacrow, I might be happier with clips if I could be assured their automatic and complete destruction once the play begins.

  3. Alejandro JodorowskyApril 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    The goal of theatre is to provoke accidents. Theater should be based on what has been called "errors": ephemeral accidents. in accepting its ephemeral character, theatre will discover what distinguishes it from other arts and consequently opens it to it's own core. Other arts leave written pages, recordings, canvas, vOlumes: objective traces that time erases very slowly. Theatre itself should not last even a day in the life of a man. Just born, it should immediately die. The only traces it will leave will be carved into the interior of human beings and will manifest in psychological changes. If the objective of other arts is to create oeuvres, the goal of theatre is specifically to change man. If theatre is not a life science, it cannot know how to be an art.