1. Maybe it’s just the head space I’m in today, but I’m not sure this quote is saying much of anything.

    “Theatre is a gross art” presumably in comparison to other, finer arts? Which ones? Is it the grossest art, does it contain the grandest sweeps, the most hyperbolic gestures?

    Maybe it’s the language I’m getting hung up on.

    I feel like there’s something in the “compromise” line, but I can’t quite grab it.


  2. I like this quote for two reasons. Regardless of her intent, I adore the idea of theatre as the “gross art”, as in; something squooshy and disconcerting that the child in you wants to poke at and pick apart. Theatre should be gross. (Ask Martin McDonagh.)

    And as for the ‘compromise’ line, I think I agree with her, in a lot of circumstances. It put me in mind of Paul’s quote from your latest 10 Questions about the great art forms that destroyed and rebelled against their status quo. Shouldn’t that be the artist’s responsibility?

    I also think it’s great that Enid was the author of National Velvet.

  3. I don’t know. I’m still having trouble with this.

    When I look at your plays, for example, I see precision of language – not some sloppy mess. And when theatre works, it’s a lovely dovetail of detail.

    I wonder if part of my trouble with this quote is that it comes from a woman, and I’m used to reading theatre theory that’s written by men.

  4. Pretty ballsy for the lady though, no? I wish I could find some context for this quote, or a date, but alas, no help from google. Bagnold was born in 1881, but died at the ripe old of 92, so she had no doubt seen many movements in theatrical form. I wonder to which this refers?

    Examining the quote, it seems to me that she wishes for specificity, subtlety and, well, balls in the theatre, certainly a good as any description of the influence of Brechtian dialectic theatre (Ed’s note: see this thread on Ian’s site for further discussion on realism in theatre) on the modern stage. Depending on which definition she intends for ‘gross’, either ‘lacking in refinement’ or ‘large and bulky’, I don’t think the quote is necessarily exclusive of precise language, rather of not using language to discuss important issues or spark specific discussion amongst the audience.

    She’s asking theatre to take a riskier stance, as is much of the blogosphere. As am I, for that matter.

  5. Hmmm. sometimes I think things are written just so people can write (academically or otherwise) to make themselves feel smart.
    Or maybe to make others feel dumb, I’m not sure which is the case here (if either), but I don’t get it.

    I didn’t read ‘gross’ as in messy, all over the place, yuk.
    I read it as large: physically, or spatially, or mentally large…if those are even different….and this is continued for me by her follow-up use of the words ‘sweeps’ and ‘over-emphasis’ as these also conjure up the idea of something large to me.

    But why is the second name of theatre compromise?

    Again, I don’t get it.

  6. Again, I can’t speak to Enid’s intent, but she brings up a good point, for me anyway. Is compromise a large part of today’s theatre? And if so, what or whom is it compromising to? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that from what I’ve seen over the last year, yep, it really is. And what it’s compromised itself to is nothing less than its own potential.

    This is not to say that I haven’t seen any uncompromising theatre lately. I have, 4.48 Psychosis at the Firehall springs to mind. (As it does a lot.) But to me, for theatre to live up to its true potential as a medium that engages its audience viscerally and sends them out into the world fucked up with unearthed questions to ponder and exposed emotions to sift, it has to cost its practitioners. That’s what I want to see on stage, the emotional price that the theatre is supposed to exact, working on me. I want to see real emotions being experienced, and real risk being taken. I want to believe the emotional life of the people that I’m watching, really believe it, I do not want to be lied to, any more. Humans are habitual lie detectors, we can tell when you’re faking it. Always.

    This goes for directors too, and playwrights. The world’s not getting any less fucked up, write about how yours is. Just so when we see your shit up there, we feel a little less alone. I want theatre in Vancouver to stand up as a medium unique, not a pointless attempt at some sort of live TV show. I want to see more crazy shit being attempted and failed at, but failing big trying something new and brave. I want the theatre to stop compromising to the status quo and stand up and say “give me some money, so I can show you what I’ve really got”. I want artists to make this art for the art itself, not for their egos. More than anything else, theatre is compromised by raging ego. I’m sick of it. It’s not about you, get it?

    I want there to be so much uncompromising shit in our theatre that everybody is talking about it, all over town, all over the internet, all over fucking TV. I want theatre to make people mad, so mad that they have to yell about it. Or joyful. Or sad, whatever. I just want it to stop being tentative, and to stop being so quiet.

    I think maybe Enid did, too.

  7. “More than anything else, theatre is compromised by raging ego. I’m sick of it. It’s not about you, get it?”

    Here’s a question: If I gave you $1,000,000, could you fix the problem in Vancouver?

  8. Fix the problem of inflamed egos? Probably not. But it would go a long way towards the development and visibility of a company that embodies the virtues that I seem to prize so highly. I can only talk about the things I believe in, loudly and publicly, and risk being called a pompous ass in the hopes that something I believe in resonates with someone else, and gets them thinking about it, and then talking about it (and so on, and so on…).

    That post last night was a bit of a rant, wasn’t it? Maybe I should blog at midnight more often.

    Hmm…”Blogging at Midnight – a CBC late night movie…”. Coming soon?

  9. Sometimes I feel like a cool million concentrated around the right project could make a lot of careers in this town, and throw down a new model in the process. (Instead of the various funding bodies trying to give every artist in this town a measly couple grand to put on some one-time wonder.)

    I guess the ego comment got me thinking about why theatre people might have these ego problems, and that got me thinking about the problems with the current apparatus, lack of money, lack of public interest, lack of this, lack of that. No wonder we’re all a bunch of egomaniacs – it’s like a huge inferiority complex gone cultural.

    I feel your anger. I do. It’s like when you look at any large group of disenfranchised people where change is so within reach, but they can’t ever seem to get it together. And we’re all walking around scratching our heads and shooting each other over dime bags of crack.

    What the fuck?

  10. Fuck! Exactly! And I realize that asking type A artists to give up their egos is like asking a junkie to give up crack. It’s not like I want all the artists in town to join together in one big theatre company commune and have a common vision, I want, nay, need the divergent ideas, opinions, and approaches. I just want us all to get on board one big publicity train and start blowing the horn. For theatre, nothing else. It’s a wicked ride, and people will jump on board. We just might have to run them over first.

  11. I have this image in my head of Simon Ogden driving a steamroller through downtown Vancouver with a megaphone, and it’s crowded and it’s a huge theatre publicity parade, and everybody’s loving it except all these people keep getting crushed by the steamroller. And I’m off in the alleyway getting knifed by some drag queen named Borris the Bitch.


  12. Ha! Now that’s good theatre. Methinks it’s getting pretty close to the time that you turn your hand to scriptwriting, Mr. Mackenzie. We all know that guy’s in there, waiting to get out. Right, Mike? Simon? Borris?

  13. When I figure out how to think like more than one character at a time maybe I’ll give it another shot. At present, any play I wrote would just be a bunch of Ians standing around a room talking – which would be dull even for me.

    Thanks for the encouragement, though.

  14. I don’t know, ‘A Bunch of Ians’ sounds like a pretty great play about, let’s say, Canadian immigration and settlement? I could sell that.

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