Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Contemporary drama?

I went last night to see my daughter in a school play. Since daughters don't always communicate very thoroughly with their parents I had no idea what is was. It turned out to be about a group of sixth formers in a school and I watched in eager anticipation of what it would tell me that I didn't already know. Not much happened in the play; there were some relationship issues, some nasty bullying, but the main theme concerned the mental breakdown of the main character who eventually (and unconvincingly) goes on a shooting spree, killing most of his classmates before landing up in an institution. The dialogue, full of profanities, is lame and uninteresting, common-place, common room talk. There were references to sex and masturbation which seemed to be there just to show how 'cool' the script was. There were no insights into the troubled minds of teenagers: it sounded authentic, near-enough, and it could have been written by teenagers themselves and I spent much of the play thinking it probably had been. I concluded the whole thing was puerile - even curiously dated - and rather cross that my daughter had spent her valuable time engaged with such rubbish. It was well acted, very true, and it would have been good experience for those involved. But then scores of other plays would have provided better experience. Contemporary it may have been, but pointless it was certainly, for it had no message of any significance.

I thought of all the wonderful plays they might have studied and performed: plays, perhaps, which might have yielded an insight into the soul, plays with language which might have challenged the actors, plays with an emotional heart, with a message... anything really. When I got home I looked it up: Punk Rock by Simon Stephens, one of the UK's leading playwrights and leading light of the 'in-yer-face' generation (Wikipedia), with good reviews and several prestige productions to its credit and a huge take up by school drama departments. That's the depressing bit, for me.

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