Theatre in Wales

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A Room Becomes a World...

Theatre Director Book

Richard Eyre & Nicholas Wright , Changing Stages , October 7, 2021
Theatre Director Book by Richard Eyre & Nicholas Wright Richard Eyre was born March 1943. Theatre is coming back on its feet. The number of new productions is modest but Richard Eyre is there with a revival at London's Harold Pinter theatre.

He featured earlier this year on this site, 22nd June, when Jonathan Pryce received his knighthood. Two of his great early parts, Hamlet and Gethin Price, were directed by Eyre.

He is a gifted writer with a literary legacy behind him. Previous books have been reviewed here but “Changing Stages” is the one that got away. It is a book that is physically heavy with a price, high for its time, to match its cost of production. The images are many and evocative. It ends with fifteen pages of a selection of notable events over the years 1900-1999.

Nicholas Wright is a foremost literary manager and a dramatist also. His “Travelling Light” was reviewed on this site in 2012. The book has a regular eloquence in its prose.

In the foreword the authors delineate the qualities that make for theatre:

“Theatre, for us, is a figurative art, one which cannot excite or thrill or even entertain for more than a minute or two unless it's about people, and unless the audience experiences these people as being real. Every worthwhile revolution in theatre has sprung from a desire to make that reality more profound, more complex...”

“Theatre thrives on metaphor: a room becomes a world, a group of characters becomes a whole society.. If you're attracted to theatre it will be on account of its “theatreness”-those unique properties that make it distinct from any other medium: its humane proportions, its potential for poetry, its insistence on the present tense, its use of space, of time, of light, of speech, of music, of story-telling.”

As makers they are sceptical of theorising:

“The theatre resists theory even more than poetry: whatever you think, feel, or say about it, its only test is in performance...rely on the evidence of the text, not on speculation, and specious psychological theory.”

And applaud its human scale:

“It is an art that can never dissolve its reliance on the scale of the human figure, the sound of the human voice, the disposition of humankind to tell each other stories.”

It is an event, a point in time:

“It happens in the present tense...there's a sense of occasion in any theatre performance and of participation in a communal act: you go into a theatre an individual and you emerge an audience.”

They say of the language that is theirs:

“It's spoken differently from the way it is written, it's supple, highly imagistic, highly idiomatic...and- most importantly- an extensive range of tone.”

And describe Shakespeare's use of it:

“a stew of neologisms, foreign importations, Latin, dialect and courtly speech.”

And that of Pinter:

“Its vocabulary is drawn from the whole of the pot: the skimmings as well as the dregs. It includes rarities, chat, philosophical fights and ribaldry. It also includes as an eloquent partner, silence.”

As for aesthetics:

“Be specific; all good art is derived from specific observations, all bad art from generalisations”

With prose to captivate. Of Eugene O'Neill:

“An indelible part of the British theatre landscape- a craggy, daunting, often beautiful, but impermeable, rock formation which always takes the traveller by surprise.”

And quotation from theatre writers:

Tennessee Williams: “at the age of fourteen, I discovered writing as an escape from a world of reality in which I felt acutely uncomfortable. It immediately became my place of retreat, my cave, my refuge.”

Mamet's “Oleanna” has been revived with triumph in 2021. It burns still and the reason why:

“We can only interpret the behaviour of others through the screen we create”

Other books of Richard Eyre feature below 5th December 2014 and 7th October 2009.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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