It’s entirely possible that this post is going to be a bit of a pointless ramble, but I want to try and put down the feelings that the last two plays I have seen have generated in me. At the outset I think that it is important that I say that both plays did not generate enough of a reaction from me to write about them individually. I just didn’t want to. I didn’t have the enthusiasm. And that’s precisely what these plays lacked too.
Both plays are new works written by very young, talented women writers. Both plays were incredibly well presented; care, time, thought, money even were spent on putting them together. The casts of both were really talented; the best that Cape Town has to offer. In the last one there was a brilliant set, lighting, backdrop and even miked up table. So everything was there for them to be really good, but they were just so … random.
Both plays had characters you cared little or nothing about. Both plays had scenarios that were mundane, average, and largely uneventful. Both of them left their characters and audience totally unchanged and unmoved. Both of them had nothing to say.
Now, I accept that I come from a totally different generation of theatre makers where issues were everything, and messages were vital. Theatre was the best (and sometimes the only) way you could communicate thoughts, feelings, points of view. Theatre challenged. Theatre tried to change minds and hearts. Theatre was the magical place of transformation.
Of course these plays are a reflection of the times. No doubt young people are putting their apathy, lack of direction, frustration and dysfunction on stage. It’s obvious that this is what they are feeling. These are their pre-occupations. Relationships are messy and uncomfortable but unresolved. Love is boring. Politics are dreary and irrelevant. Families are irritating, insular and uninspired. There is the sense that individuals are powerless and useless against the tide of arbitrary violence, law breaking, corruption and lack of effective governance. The response to all this is a mild throwing up of hands. A muted ‘I don’t know’. And the biggest problem with all of this is that it is (for me) agonising to watch on stage.
I overheard somebody say how excited they were to be at the theatre on the opening night of the first play. I also love that feeling, when I’m sitting in my seat and the lights go down, before anything happens, and the infinite possibility of magic exists. I love being taken somewhere, I love the feeling of being changed by what happens on stage. I love being drawn in by real, live performance. It moves me.
But here these stories, these preoccupations, these characters…. It feels so pointless. And it makes me unenthusiastic, uninspired and disillusioned. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s exactly how I should feel. But, what would be the point of that?