I have been to the theatre twice in the last 3 weeks. Yes, twice. The height of extravagance. In theory, as an actress I should go often, but going to the theatre costs a fair amount of money. However, I got a free ticket and a not-very-expensive one so I went to see Posh at the Duke of York’s Theatre and Three Kingdoms at the Lyric. And I was quite excited.
Both plays have some great reviews (although Three Kingdoms slightly less consistently because it is, quite frankly, too long and a bit weird). They were both creative, energetic, and intelligent productions and the theatres were full. The performances were brilliant, the sets were inspired. One of them (Three Kingdoms) was about the huge social scourge and injustice in our midst, namely human trafficking, which you’d think would be just up my street. And yet in different ways they left me totally cold. And while this blog is supposedly about good stories, please indulge me while I say a few things about stories I don’t like (I’ll try not to rant).
Stories tell us things about the world. They can’t help but put forward a worldview, which you may or may not share; they are saying ‘this is the way the world is’. So when I blog all these stories about good stuff happening, about people finding a way out of poverty, I am trying to tell you that this is what the world is like, because it’s what I believe. That despite the hugely complex and overwhelming problems the world has, there is hope. There are people who believe that and are walking a different way and finding ways out of the problems. (And incidentally, I’d like to infect you with that belief).
These two plays paint a world that is bleak, compromised, and at times utterly repulsive. It is a world ultimately without justice or the hope of it, where power belongs to the corrupt. So apparently neither playwright is very optimistic about our future.
Now clearly the world is corrupt and compromised. Just last week I blogged about a district of Mumbai where 15 brothels house 75,000 women, most of them trafficked. I think art should reflect these awful truths. But watching those plays left me worn down and apathetic (the exhaustion I felt at the end of Three Kingdoms wasn’t just because of its length but the fact that half of it was in Estonian and German and I forgot my glasses so was straining at the subtitles). The plays told me that this is just the way the world is and nothing can be done. (This was a bigger deal in Three Kingdoms when you’re contemplating the world’s human trafficking trade, whereas in Posh you are presented with the possibility that the UK is run by idiotic, selfish, spoilt and violent rich boys). They don’t take you to any new horizons or make you think that anything else is possible. I think they shrink our imaginations and diminish our compassion.
So this is why I don’t like bleak stories, because I ultimately don’t believe in a bleak story. I’m not trying to shut down the pessimists, I’m just saying that I think something is missing from their stories.