Director's Blog

michaelblog

"Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is defiantly my play. I borrowed a 4 LP box set of the original 1962 cast New York production from my brother Hugh and I still have not returned it. I must have listened to it about 300 or 400 times. I bought the script for it 50 years ago on the 6th October 1967. I have lived with that play as some sort of unintelligible backdrop to my emotional life and yet I have never had the opportunity to see a production. And I never saw the film. But I have constantly been drawn to it’s poetic nature, the rhythm of the text, even though the content is disturbing and savage. I have remained obsessed, mystified and delighted

I have never even read any critique or explanation about the play, its content and its inner themes. I have never before written about my connection to the play. I seldom speak about it to other people, even though remans  there in the background, like some older relative of my family who has influenced me in some way but we never meet up.

So I was excited and a bit apprehensive when I heard a production was coming to my home town. I think if it had been an amateur production I might not have gone. It might be too upsetting for me to see a production that wasn’t anything like the one that I have had in my head all these 50+ years. When I bought my ticket it was a reassured  to be told that they were performing an uncut version- I wanted to hear it all… I wanted to slog through the whole drunken evening.

And the joy was that the production and acting met practically every expectation for me. It was everything I was looking for. It was a faithful and unapologetic interpretation, with no compromises or attempts to update it. The set ‘set the scene’ well, clearly giving an impression of  that 1950’s living room of a house on a campus of a small New England college. It was cramped, given the size of the stage at the Eastgate, but the actors worked well with the challenge.

The interpretation of the play slotted beautifully into my inner vision of it. It was a joy to see George, Martha and Nick acting the play, for the most part, the way I had imagined them too.  Inevitably there were a few discrepancies from my inner version- some of them added to my enjoyment and occasionally I thought that they had missed a trick. Honey was not quite as I have imagined her to be and I was surprised and delighted that I found I actually preferred her interpretation to mine. It must be challenging to inhabit the role a miserable little simp for an entire play. But her interpretation added something fresh and new to my enjoyment.

It is nearly six months since I saw the production. If I had sat down immediately after it and written, then I would have had more specific recollections. But I do remember walking back from the theatre with the contented knowledge that I don’t need to see a production of it ever again." 

Julian Goodacre, Eastgate Theatre Customer

Published in Archive Articles
Monday, 08 August 2016 11:11

Democratising Theatre

In the classic Scottish play The Steamie the characters compare the experience of the community gathering on the green to dry their washing to the prospect of having your own washing machines in your own house. The young character is looking forward to having her own machine – as she would never have to leave her house, whilst the others lament the passing of the idea of  “community”, illustrated by everyone gathering on the green.

To me theatre and in particular touring theatre is essential to create and nurture that sense of community and its sense of community that we desperately need in this increasingly fractured world. We live in a world where arguably people spend more time on their phones than engaging directly with each other, and in a world where people feel isolated and that they have no one to relate to or engage with.

Theatre brings together a community, even just for one evening. It places complete strangers under one roof and compels them to engage, not just with each other but with the two hours traffic of the stage. It encourages them to see themselves not as individuals but as part of a bigger picture –it compels them to empathise with the emotional journey of the characters they are watching.

Taking theatre out beyond the main cities into smaller towns and villages encourages people to engage who may have been put off by the distance to or the ticket prices of the main city venues. In our next tour with Democracy you will see the same show whether you are going to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow or the Theatre Royal in Dumfries. You should have the same experience in The Kings in Edinburgh or The Village Theatre in East Kilbride --- in a sense we are ‘Democratising’ Theatre.

There is a view that touring theatre has lost its political heft and its energy since the days of the lauded 80’s and 90’s theatre companies: Wildcat, 7:84, Borderline etc. However touring theatre, I feel, is more needed now then ever, partly for the reasons above. It’s just that now, in the “Nachos and Netflix” culture, we have to work much harder to draw people away from their laptops and into the theatre.

The days of the ‘out of the back of the van, rough and ready, two planks and a passion theatre’ perhaps have given way to a theatre that has to be sophisticated but accessible, nuanced but entertaining, challenging but satisfying, intellectual but unpretentious. When people can stream the latest high quality drama to their phones or binge on box sets of classic series –we have to offer them something they wont get on their laptop; Theatre that is not just the same high quality drama they can receive on their phone, but that it has the one crucial ‘ingredient’ that a million downloads won’t have –its live and its happening now in front of them. That energy and rapture of live performance can be intoxicating and creates a sense of a community coming together and sharing the same life affirming experience.

Published in Director's Blog

1490107956 online social media facebook          1490108000 twitter online social media          1490107993 instagram online social media photo

FOLLOW US