Presence Theatre's new Reading Group met for the third time on April 24th 2015 to continue exploring lesser-known plays. Here actor Bill Nash responds to the process of digging through unfamiliar territory.
There’s a reason a lot of plays never get performed. They’re terrible. But at the same time, in among the unknown and unseen, the seldom-heard-of and the too-weird, there is gold. The Presence Theatre Reading Group aims to find this, and at the last meeting on the 24th April it was good to be among a large group of actors trying to breathe life into written work that looked less than promising. Diligence, talent and rigour are no guarantee of success, however, and a few of the pieces clunked, but frequently when we got the rhythm right, we got the goods. Fredrik Brattberg’s The Returning was a real revelation, and the other pieces all held moments of promise. There’s gold in them there hills.
Actor Jamie de Courcey responds to two of the plays read at the third meeting of the new Presence Theatre Reading Group on April 24th 2015 that gave him food for thought.
Fascinating sight read of plays for the Reading Group. Without preparation, you take in an immediate flavour and texture of a play. Flavour and texture perhaps also spring to mind because a number of the plays seemed to revolve around food, taste, desire for food, nostalgia for food. One of these was When the World Was Green by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard. It perhaps shouldn't surprise me, given that Sam Shepard wrote a play I once saw called Action throughout which a fish is gutted. Some foods, one example of which is a fish, are hunted. This Shepard/Chaikin play seemed to involve an eternal hunt.
The man on the hunt, an inherited familial hunt, is in prison for he has mistakenly killed the wrong man. He has killed a man that looked identical to the man that he has been tracking his whole life. He is now an old man. He has been hunting a long time. We start the play with the idea that these familial grudges can only be ended by a woman waving a scarf above her head. A woman visits the man in prison. They talk a lot about food and desire. The subject of the last meal came up I think. Or perhaps I just expected it to. She is related (daughter?) of the man who has been accidentally killed. Or perhaps I just expected her to be. It seemed to be a metaphor for the amorphous urgency we are all born with, like a horse is born with the knowledge of how to walk, we are born with something that drives us forward. Or the corrupted intentions passed down through generations. The need to conquer. To win. To overcome. To chase. What is the object of the hunt? Does it matter what it is? Do we chase ourselves like a tail pinned on our own backs? Is it trick? A trick whereby you kill a ghost, a figment. What is it I see before me? A dagger? A carrot? Leading me forward? And on this wild goose chase. A trap. A prison. And what is there to do along the way? Eat.
Ghosts and figments are central to the second Sam Shepard play we read; A Short Life of Trouble. Sam records an interview with Bob Dylan to try and find something about him, who he is and what drives him. They share an admiration for the beyond real, pure expression of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and question why the end of East of Eden feels not quite right to them. One says it's because they had to overdub his performance with another voice because he had died when he crashed his car before he could complete the film's A.D.R. Dylan is answering questions. He is mixing truth with lies as usual. (Somewhere in here I seem to remember an exchange, with a pally, blokey mistrust of women but I could be mistaken. A sense of the female as Other.) But when at the end of the interview they play the tape back their voices are not there. Even though they had tested to see if the recorder worked. There is only an eerie music instead. Trying to grasp who anyone is, is like trying to catch a slippery fish. You can more than likely end up with nothing in you hands. Or kill the wrong man. A search for the slippery fish of truth.