Troilus and Cressida or a good, hard look at the footprint of something short of an idealised and benevolent God

Last night, my husband and I attended the RSC & Wooster Group’s production of Troilus and Cressida.

It was brilliant – if not a bit weird – and it is that niggling weird bit upon which I decided to blog.

In their synopsis, the theatre companies describe their play as one of disillusionment.

And indeed, it would appear that’s true.  After seven years at war, neither the Greeks nor the Trojans remain certain about the value of that for which they’ve been fighting. Even the innocent love affair between Troilus and Cressida ends in betrayal and despair without apparent rhyme or reason.

Plays are often expected to sort of life.  We want them to take the random and contradictory events that we experience and make them seem ordered, natural, inevitable. (Mark Ravenhill – Writer in residence at the RSC)

When a play doesn’t do that, it’s considered a ‘problem’ and interestingly it appears that perhaps Shakespeare planned it that way.

If we can create something that is inconsistent in tone, unreliable in information and driven by contradiction then maybe we can create the realistic theatre that Shakespeare was looking for.  (Mark Ravenhill – Writer in residence at the RSC)

And that’s just the point.

Many don’t like realistic theatre.  We don’t want to pay good money to see a story where (unlike our everyday lives) the loose ends are not tied up.   Such untidiness threatens our personal cosmologies – i.e. the carefully constructed psychologically spatial orientation through which we view the world.

Yet if we can sit for awhile with this tension – i.e. the niggling weird bits –  we might come to discover that instead of having been sadly parted from our hard-earned money, we’ve been given privileged glimpse of something which just might revolutionise our world.

I suggest that something is perspective (or in less polite circles, a good, hard look at the footprint of something short of an idealised and benevolent God).

The Duchess – past and present

Researching for my new novel (Lords & Lies), my husband and I recently watched the film ‘The Duchess’ – which is based on the true life story of the Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (an ancestor of Princess Diana).

In her time (1757-1806), Georgina was beautiful, glamorous, and a trendsetter in fashion and politics.  She was also a compulsive gambler, a drug addict, and an adulteress.

Not only was Georgina married off at age 17 years to ‘the only man in town who didn’t love her’, but she was also forced to live under the same roof as her husband’s mistress (cheery menage a trois – you ask?  perhaps….).  Although she was privileged and adored by both her public and her children, her personal problems got the better of her.

So long ago, her life.   Yet  still today, her story resonates in our hearts and minds – the details of which could easily be ascribed to any number of modern celebrities.

What does this tell us about human nature?

More importantly, what does it tell us about the nature of ‘progress’?

I don’t have the answers.  Do you?

BTW, if you’re interested, Amanda Foreman has written a splendid biography of Georgiana, called The Duchess (Harper Perennial, 1998).