Story time

So, what's the story? We're getting used to asking this question, to thinking in terms of digestible narrative. It seems that life's not only a pitch nowadays, but a plausible story. Politicians have stopped fighting the media, but now embrace the demand for constructing a clearly defined sequence. Across the Atlantic, election punditry has repeatedly looked at which candidate has shaped the strongest story: a version of their lives that settles into a compelling narrative arc (lacking only the third-act denouement on November 4). In what we used to consider our real lives too, we are encouraged to build accounts of ourselves for job interviews or first dates which give direction to the formless rush of experience.

Everyone fashions themselves into stories - but are they deceptively conventional ones? Watching an audacious new version of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author earlier today, I was struck by the way the production nailed a pressure for people to reveal their individual souls in almost formulaic ways.

The production, by the prolific and imaginative Rupert Goold (best known for directing Macbeth with Patrick Stewart in Chichester, London and New York) heavily adapts Pirandello's 1921 classic (the text is by Good and Ben Power). The 'characters' (a family with a traumatic sexual secret) now erupt into a modern team of documentary filmmakers. The film's producer describes herself as a 'narrative junkie,' but those narratives are not unmediated, undirected. Even as dramatic reconstruction weaves itself through the documentary, we may be lulled into ignoring the conventions of what we're expected to respond to, the emotional cogs and pulleys that tug our attention.

In Goold's production, devastating human experience emerges through grotesque vaudeville and tragic opera, anything other than so-called 'ultra-naturalism'. (It helps that the most prominent 'character' is played by Ian McDiarmid, a magnificent actor with no interest in appealing to audience sympathy.) When two professional actors attempt to recreate one of the characters' most traumatic moments, they hobble the lines with apparently realistic pauses and hesitant mumbles that are suddenly revealed another form of stylisation. One actor even adopts a Scottish accent, which in Britain is often taken as an index of staunch gravitas. 'This is naturalism, mate!' huffs the actor when criticised - and an unexpectedly partial form of representation it proves to be.

Humans are adaptable animals. We suit our stories - we suit ourselves - to fit expectations. If we shape an account of ourselves and our experience fit for Oprah's sofa or a pseudo-sensitive drama, does this begin to shape our emotions? Theatre doesn't always need to make us feel more deeply - instead, as with Six Characters, it can make us look more sharply. The triumph of Goold's production is to help us examine the frame of our behaviour and work towards new ways of seeing.

October 24, 2008 1:10 AM | | Comments (0) |

Leave a comment

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Performance Monkey published on October 24, 2008 1:10 AM.

Practical criticism: boys in the banks was the previous entry in this blog.

Practical criticism: you betcha is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.