25 January 2010

Absolutely no sofas

Let's begin with sofas and how much I loathe them on stage. Especially ratty brown ones. I often write ‘absolutely no sofas’ in the production notes of a script, and with one terrible exception (an armchair) back in 2000, I’ve managed to keep soft furnishings out of my work. If you want to see couches, go to Ikea.

To me, sofas on stage are the theatrical equivalent of bookshelves in documentary films—the expert interviewed in front of his packed bookcase. This is not because I’ve got anything against domestic or office décor per se, (I love books and have crowded shelves of my own) it’s because a sofa represents a certain kind of play and production.

At various points I’ve tried to write these more traditional narrative dramas with plots and character journeys and naturalistically-inclined dialogue. The kinds of plays that get programmed in subscription seasons. What usually happens though, is I get to about page 5 and complete anarchy has broken out—I want to introduce a robot or a flock of singing sheep, or I find that one of my sensible characters has flipped his arc to riff on the difference between moths and butterflies, which, BTW, is not night and day. From time to time, generally when I’m looking at a 2-digit bank balance, I’ve berated myself for not trying harder to write this kind of play. But not any more. This is the year I finally admit that I don’t much like conventional narrative drama, and I don’t want to write the stuff. It’s not my shtick. So my motto for 2010 is: embrace your inner maverick.

Speaking of which, I saw Tim Key’s show The Slutcracker on Saturday. A wonderful and wonderfully idiosyncratic mish-mash of poetry, performance, film, philosophical nuggets and improv. It’s daggy and meandering and clever and funny, and best of all, utterly unpredictable. Unlike the STC’s Tot Mom. After 5 minutes, I knew where that was going. The critics loved it, as did a number of friends and colleagues. What can I say? It had a lot of chairs of the hard, un-upholstered variety, but at least it had no sofas.

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