There was a superb interview with Edward Albee tonight on the radio which is well worth a download (for this week at least). Superb not for fluid questioning and erudite follow ups, but for genuine engagement.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a school assembly on ‘how to write a book’ (small pond, education, they’re easily impressed 😉 and one of the points I made was that I believed that one writes not to reveal, but to discover, a sentiment mirrored by Albee when pressed about the roots of his plays. “I write my plays to find out why I’m writing them” was his wonderful reply.
Later in the interview he voiced some concerns I have had on recent theatre visits: the economics of theatre are disgusting. The cost of tickets and costs of productions are driving it into the long grass, where only the “well-stuffed, over-comfortable, upper-middle-class, white, middle-aged reactionaries” can afford to be entertained. A great example was Tom Stoppard’s play Rock ‘n’ Roll. The writing was fabulous, the ideas brilliant. But, given this was a play about revolution, about political injustice and oppression, the backing track was shameful. It was virtually all Pink Floyd, the ultimate musical expression of Albee’s caricatured audience.
Between each act a screen came down and music was played (shockingly loudly, I couldn’t hear myself think, muttered one buffer in the interval about the faint PA) – and the track details were shown on the screen in animated graphics that would have had the entire Vaux cemetery turning in their graves. In other words, great writing, but no idea about some of the really good alternative music around at the time, just as Albee described.
He went on: where are the minorities, where are the young? Where are those on the edge? When it’s £40 for a seat… plus a £4 booking fee, (or £50 with a £5 fee – what, is the ticket heavier or something? FFS!) this is clearly an art form that has lost something of ‘the gift’.
It’s a question that perturbs me about the Emerging Church. Is it all just becoming too comfortable? Where has the edge gone? It may just be personal rather than universal, but I wonder if part of the reason that movements lose their edge is when they begin to exist not to discover, but to reveal. The praxis is lost amidst the performance?