Friday, August 11, 2006

Calling Allison Croggon

Since one of the complaints is that I don't really know whereof I speak as far as contemporary theatre is concerned, I'd like to start a new feature: Teach the Teacher. This is a segment where someone from the blogosphere recommends something they feel would be good for me to be exposed to, and I will seek it out and give it a read, and then I'll blog about it. If I remember, I'll try to do this once a month.

I'd like the first participant to be Allison Croggon, who long has suggested I ain't readin' the right books. Allison, recommend a play for me! What is an important play I need to read?


Alison Croggon said...

Hi Scott - just caught up with this, and with your mea culpa post. Apology accepted, not that I felt especially attacked.

Out of the many books which immediately popped into my head, it's hard to choose. But how's this for an exercise? I suggest:

Sarah Kane's Complete Plays (available from Methuen). They are in chronological order, so you can see the development of a fascinating theatrical mind. I'd especially recommend Cleansed, 4:48 Psychosis (for my money, her best play and an amazing piece of poetic theatre) and her teleplay, Skin.

In tandem with that, I'd recommend reading, if you have not already done so, her precursor, Howard Barker. The plays I'd especially suggest you read to begin with are Victory and The Castle, from Volume 1 of his Collected Plays (Calder Publications, Riverrun Press in the US). And follow that with his most bracing book of essays, Arguments for a Theatre, which is polemic and exciting and very angry. (And sometimes contradicts his practice, like a good playwright usually does).

That should background you a little - there are so many more writers, of course - about a certain kind of contemporary theatre. As I hope you will see, their aims are complex - about being embedded in and responding to the contemporary world, about raising levels of feeling and response in an audience, about seeking for a truthfulness in theatrical experience. You will also find that, for all the shit thrown in her direction, Kane's major theme is love. Barker is more overtly and complexly political, and creates a very literary theatrical language that gestures towards the richness of Shakespeare.

Following that, I'd explore Bernard-Marie Koltes, the most interesting French playwright of recent decades (also available in Methuen). Especiaslly Roberto Zucco. But you only asked for one thing...

oldphort said...

No Barker in the UNCA library (as of last summer) - go see Angie, she has most of his collected works.


Scott Walters said...

I own "Arguments for a Theatre," and have read much of it with a combination of admiration and puzzlement. I love his attitude that we should give the audience credit for intelligence.

I was hoping you'd suggest Kane. I'll see what I can track down. Thanks for the suggestions!

Floyd said...

Have you read Lucinda maxell? She might be hard to find int he States. she reminds me of Sarah Kane excpet with out the sucicide and angst. and she rights about animals more.

Aliester said...

Damn you! After reading this list and doing a bit of research, I have purchased the complete Sarah Kane, the complete Howard Barker, and 'Arguments for a Theatre'. I'll be checking back and comparing notes with you when they arrive ;)