It’s Good To Talk
The greatest thing about theatre is the different reactions, feelings and emotions of seeing, hearing and feeling a production. And yet, theatre itself does not capture that reaction. The most powerful theatre is a tragedy. Furthermore tragedy is not tragedy unless it stirs up a reaction. Again, traditional theatre does not capture that.
Traditional definitions of Art return to “Art for Art’s sake” constructs. However, as Theatre of War, in conjunction with GlenArt, demonstrated powerfully tonight is that it can and should serve a far greater moral purpose.
Tonight saw a wonderful event expertly and creatively coordinated by the splendid Fiona Macdonald. Guests could not fail to be amazed as they approached the blue lit-up Edinburgh Castle towering coldly, but resplendently, over the hubbub up flashing lights and Christmas funfairs below. The Great Hall’s fire provided warmth to those who entered for tonight’s event (and it truly was an event… Much more than merely a performance). The night began with Piper Daniel Laidlaw VC ‘ s pipes being played expertly by a Pipe Major from the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The same pipes that led Scottish KOSB troops out of gas filled trenches at the Battle of Loos in 1915, wonderfully kick started tonight’s affairs. Attendees would be inspired to “go over the top” and take action in support of those who suffer the mental trauma of war.
Jason Issacs, Lesley Sharp and Bryan Doerries then read on the Greek Tragedy of Ajax. Their powerful production was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of war. This was no high faulting panel but was drawn from a local community who know the topic so well. Veterans, charity worked and wife’s of veterans, shared their interpretation of the play whose resonance was as striking now as it was when first heard by Athenian citizenry.
Bryan Doerries then engaged the panel and audience in discussion. It is a well oiled machine having been done over 300 times before from New York to medical units and army barracks in modern day war zones.
Professor Douglas Cairns from Edinburgh University commented in the fact that the Ancient Greeks institutionalised issues. One did not just read The Iliad , but in Athenian Society all went to the Theatre on mass.
It makes for an interesting reflection. Do we need to establish more “community” around key issues? Would this allow for more cathartic renewal, understanding and momentum to be created? With many issues, there is no one easy reconfigurable truth (those who believe so are deluded) and it is an ongoing process of learning, development and progress within concepts and discourse.
With significant issues, like PTSD and mental health issues, the primary mode of therapy is talk. So with that in mind, can I add my appreciation and advocacy of projects like “Outside the Wire”/Theatre of War and GlenArt?
The Greeks knew you just could not bottle certain things up and there needed to be the cathartic cleansing and refreshing of theatre.
The first of Doerries questions tonight was why did Sophocles write at all? My own thoughts as an educator and historian were around a) the process of recording and b) part of his own learning process (making sense and reflecting). Other answers ranged from guilt, cleansing to triumphant aims. The last of the three main questions that facilitated flowing conversation tonight was “how often do we intentionally or unintentionally leave people alone?” The military piper who had earlier played Laidlaw ‘s pipes so proudly reflected from the audience they in the last month a fellow soldier had confided in him that he was contemplating suicide. Before seeking professional help, the piper slept on hid friends floor that night to be with him and protect. The news was a bolt from the blue.
And so, and event like tonight…. Punchy, pride ensuing, pity evoking and Powerful…. Did it galvanise me to do more? Well, as Professor a Cairns and Doerries stated, Greek tragedy was to comport the afflicted and afflict the comforted.
Theatre of War presents again tomorrow at Mackintosh Queens Cross, Glasgow.
As I return on the train I ponder the tragedy of Ajax… His fearsome, terrifying figure set against the strong honour values and leadership he displayed. Tonight, and ongoing, we witnessed the collaborative leadership of modern day heroes like Fiona Macdonald whose values create strong forces against some of the fearsome and terrifying forces facing communities today.
A final word goes to my favourite quote if the evening and one much used by my fellow do author Kevin Murphy. We proudly used it in our first book together, Determined to Succeed. It aptly sums up thoughts on a magnificent evening brought together by some wonderful people who are creating momentum with their powerful actions.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Roosevelt)
NB apologies for any typos. A hastily written review on a busy and bumpy train journey home!