Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hanging Dramaturgy: Peter Arnott @ The Tron

What was the inspiration for this performance?
I've been writing plays now for more than thirty years and I've been wanting to write a play about Casement for all that time. Ever since I first came across his story, the idea of the execution in 1916 of an Irish Nationalist Protestant Gay British Civil Servant Hero of the struggle for human rights in Africa well before such a thing had anything like a name...has had a certain appeal. 

This year being the centenary of that execution, and of the Easter
Rising, it became a time limited kind of a thing...particularly when I realised that no one else seemed to be doing it...which I find frankly astonishing. It's a key story for our times, I think, in more ways than can be comfortably fitted into 90 minutes...Just start with the idea of the break-up of Britain...throw in individual as well as national self-determination...plus the fight to expose European perfidy and hypocrisy in the Congo...and take it from there.

How did you become interested in writing for performance in the first place - does it hold any particular qualities that other media don't have?I acted before I wrote plays. Writing plays is still a second cousin of performing in them, only you get to play everyone in the privacy of your own home – though my wife tells me I have the distressing habit of going over dialogue while walking down the street to the alarm of innocent members of the public. I'm an actor with a pencil and without the guts to be an actor.

Was your process typical of the way that you write a script?
Yes and no, in that there is nothing ever entirely typical because of the specificity of the demands on the piece each time. A play text is not a play...the play is something that happens only in performance and only in the minds of the individual spectator (each of whom sees a slightly different play, naturally) so the job is to provoke the story telling in the audience rather than to tell the story. On the other hand, yes, it wasn't unusual in that I was responding to the fact that this was going to be a two hander at the Tron scheduled for May 2016...I mean in terms of craft...

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
The action of the play is basically an interrogation. So those who know about Casement will have one experience, and those who don't know about him will have another...Will he hang or not? Is a Socratic question, a political question, a moral question...and a very personal one? Even if you know what happened...

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?Now you're asking! The title comes from an article written by George Bernard Shaw in the Manchester Guardian in 1916. And the play is unfashionably Shavian...it's an argument about Britain, loyalty, Ireland, war, love...between two people who speak in whole sentences. It's historical on a couple of levels. But I think it unfolds nicely...and with actors of the calibre of Stevie Clyde (who does menace better than any other actor in Scotland, I think) and the intelligence and charm of Benny Young as Casement...I think the audience will find themselves in the room with these guys...which will hopefully be an interesting and slightly terrifying experience...

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
I see myself as reinventing what I do every time I do it...I'm not sure I could stand it any other way.

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