A precious commodity of which there is too little? Or a plentiful supply in abundance, that is taken for granted and thoughtlessly squandered…missed only when it’s gone?
I had this conversation with a member of one of my writers’ groups last night. The debate still rages as we could both find examples to support both assertions.
Like a revolution, Love can sweep through you, engulf you, inspire you, rock you to the core, empower you and enable you to think, feel and act in ways you’ve never done before. It can turn everything upside down, spin you around and leave you feeling 10 metres high – walking on air and conquering every barrier standing in your way – taking you to a better place and making everything you survey new, changed, improved, reformed, liberated, released and … well, just better.
Love = hope, optimism and fulfillment…unfettered, unbound, uncontained. But like a revolution, can it be sustained? Are you in love now? Do you feel love now? Yes, right now? And when do you feel love? What triggers, sparks, feeds and nourishes that love? Do you think it’s just something that happens of its accord and you can’t force it, manage it, manufacture it nor control it?
Whatever the case, you need love, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you think. We all need love. It’s not even a case of whether you want it or not – you need it. It is biologically and physiologically – not to mention psychologically- proven. And, as a result of a conversation sparked by another member of the aforementioned writers group, I ascertain, it is also dramaturgically proven. Said writer contended that all drama needs conflict and therefore it makes sense to think in terms of the anger and the often accompanying violence to ensure you are writing compelling and engaging theatre.
I had just set the whole group a writing task, based on the simple arrangement of a chair; a table; an empty jug of water and two glasses. I asked the group to survey the scene before them, decide for themselves who was inhabiting this space, what did the inhabitants want and then to write the scene – the discourse which would follow between these characters. The only other proviso being that the scene was entitled: Intimacy.
The scenes were written, some were shared, opinions and responses elicited and then we came to the subject of conflict and anger.
I thought about the assertion in terms of how much anger and conflict I read in new, fledgling, early formed plays – compared with how much I actually witness in the ‘final product’ – the plays I go and see, the plays that eventually get produced and make it to the stage.
Then I thought about anger itself, and I remember someone once pointed out to me that it is a secondary emotion. The anger always comes in response to something else and is the outward manifestation of something else felt, deep, on the inside – invariably another emotion. So I thought about what belies the anger.
I also thought about how easy it is to show the anger in your drama as a way of ‘making it dramatic’….and the fact I’m never particularly drawn to – nor fancy hanging around for – things for that are too long, or too easy. Sorry, it’s just the way I am – I like a challenge, a struggle even.
This led me to deduce that it’s much harder (and seemingly rarer) to write the conflict inspired by and underpinned by love. But invariably, at the heart of the matter, when things seem ridiculously complex, difficult and excruciatingly painful to handle…rest assured, they’ll be love sitting there at the root. This is what I want to see made real, manifest on the stage before me, because I believe this is what it’s about.
Can you dig deep enough to find what’s really behind the violence and the rage; the desire; the pain; the behaviour? Can you find the love in the conflict? And once you’ve found it, can you write it in such a way it engulfs the stage, everyone on it and everyone in the audience surveying the scene before them? Like the writers in my group who dealt with the title ‘Intimacy’ in a myriad of ways, how you interpret ‘Love’ can be – and undoubtedly will be – many and varied. But make no mistake: it is the stuff of great drama. It is of the heart and at the heart.
Love is joy. Love is life.
A footnote. From Love to Pride: I just have to mention and send warm congratulations to Janice Okoh for winning this year’s Bruntwood Prize and to Jasmine Johnson, whose play ‘Mr. Soon Come’ won the ‘Best Black Theatre Production’ at this year’s MVSA Awards. Both writers attended my Critical Mass playwriting group at the Royal Court in 2009 in London and Birmingham respectively. As well as feeling proud of them and their achievement, I am of course euphoric and sending them a tsunami of love and joy.