Monday 17 September 2012

Love and Information – Royal Court

[reviews in the vague style of...  and this one is way too long]



So here it is then.

Here it is.

Dominic's Big Last Season.

The Big Last Season, yes.

All the stuff.

All the big stuff, yes.


There are many voices telling us what they want us to write, how they want us to write it, how they want us to re-write it, and exactly what will happen to it if we get all of that right. As a poet I know which journals will publish my poetry and which ones will always refuse it. As a playwright I’ve discovered there is no other place to send this work.

Right. So how do you explain this, then?


So everyone's here then?

Yup. It's like a Royal Court Greatest Hits Museum.

You can't really watch a play like this, can you? Not when you know the work of every damn person in the room, can you? You can't even trust the laughter, can you?

Ooh, look. There's Andrew Scott.

So it is. And he's started dressing like Nick Cave!

It looks good.


You all know about Caryl Churchill, right? I don't need to outline her massive reputation, explain that she's considered a big deal, or tell you that new texts from her are as rare as hen's teeth, right?

Sure. But do you think you should admit that (you missed A Number) you haven't liked anything she's written (including her letters to the Guardian) for over a decade? Should you confess that this antipathy has begun to corrode your acceptance of the reputation of her earlier plays?

Churchill can write, don't get me wrong. Sure, sometimes her writing can be a bit tic-y. Yes. But it's her politics that rankle. Which is odd, because her politics are the same as mine. So why are her politics so incredibly annoying?


I was wondering... If you can deal with Israel/Palestine in 10 minutes, why does this play take 100?


You seem very hostile


But you seem hostile

I'm not sure how you have arrived at that conclusion

Well, a lot of the things you're saying, these situations you describe, they're very

I don't see how you can construe any of this as hostile

But it all adds up, doesn't it?

Does it?

Don't you think it adds up?

You tell me



How is it arranged?

Carefully. Like this.

No names?

No names.

No scenes?

Oh, yes. Scenes.

No names?

No. Names.

Scenes with names?



Yes, acts. Seven acts.

Seven acts and scenes with names?

And “Random”.


I was just wondering something.


You see where it says “Schizophrenia” here?


I was wondering about that.

What about it?

We didn't see that, did we?

We're looking at it now. We can both see it.

We can see it now. But we didn't see it then.

Oh. I see what you mean.

And there are all these names. And we didn't know about any of them.

We could have looked.

But we didn't, though. We didn't look until afterwards. While it was happening we didn't know the names.


Hey, did they give you the little speech?


When they gave me my book they also gave me this piece of paper.

Oh yeah. I got that.

And they said “Some of the scenes are in different places now to the place they are in the book. So here's a list of all the places that they're in now.”

What's your problem?

Well, why do we need it?

So we know.

But we'd know by seeing the thing and looking at the book and seeing they were different.

But it's helpful.

I suppose it's for the old ones. They like to know everything's been done by the book.

But, at the beginning of the book it says: “the scenes can be played in any order within each section”.

I'm telling the Germans on them.


sometimes there aren't capital letters

At the beginning of sentences?


and is there any consistency in this

not even within scenes

And what about punctuation?

it varies too


seen this pattern before


can't deny there are

think it's the same ?

years ago now


and changed. We know what he's

not the same guy


but similar



As you can see, it covers a lot of ground.

Yes, so I see. It's got a very impressive range.

I'm sensing a “but”.


Yes. I'm getting the impression that you have reservations.

Well, ok. I suppose I am concerned about the ethics of it.

The ethics?

The ethics. Having so much range. It feels... when it's launched... When we launch it... When it is launched on our behalf... We're so far away from the targets when it lands.

But isn't that the beauty of it? Isn't that the point?

But so many targets and in such a short amount of time? At least in the past you had to get your hands dirty...

You'd rather be twisting a bayonet in someone's guts while looking into their eyes?

Well, it seems more honest that way, yes.



It's so open out here.

Yes, it's wonderful. Very freeing, I've always found.

Mmm. Exactly.

Like you could be anyone.

Yes. Yes, exactly. Like I could be anyone at all out here.

It almost feels unreal?

But in a good way, right?

Oh, yes. In a good way.

No. What is it?

Well, it's just, this is going to sound silly.

No. Go on.

It's just... Out here, with you, now... And knowing I could be literally anyone, I feel kind of disappointed that I'm just me. Do you know what I mean? Does that sound silly?

No. I feel that way too.


“in China white is death and here black is death but ghosts are white of course so a chessboard is death against death”

did she say that?

it's right here

and a chessboard is eight squares by eight squares

and there are seven sections with seven acts?

yes, but they've added an extra one line act into each scene

so it's also eight by eight?

not quite. The last section only has one

but here, where we're standing is like a white cube with 8x8 grids drawn on it

yes. Like a five-sided chessboard of Chinese death

do you think that's why?


imagine I keep coming back

coming back?

as different

reincarnation you

except that everyone I come back as, nearly everyone I come back as seems to be from the same sort of background. We're all wearing the same Western


imagine everyone else coming back

but not really changed

maybe different relationships. maybe slightly different backgrounds but basically we all keep coming back as people who could the the person we were last time


I wish you wouldn't keep turning out the light.


Because everything takes twice as long. If you didn't keep switching off the light we'd be done by now.

But it's the only way of stopping them seeing what we're doing.

Why do we have to hide what we're doing? You chose to do this. Why did you choose this if you're embarrassed?


I hear noises.

You hear noises?

Yes. Sometimes distantly, sometimes quite loudly.

What are the noises you hear?

Oh, it varies. Sometimes children playing in the street or shouting, sometimes a kind of banging sound or maybe glass breaking. And sometimes it's Sailing By or the theme tune of the The Archers.

Sailing By?


Well that's original.

What do you think it all means?


Yes. Do you remember years ago?

Yes. You were still at university.

Yes. Everything still felt possible.

Yes. And unexpected things happened.

Yes. Like a giant emu coming through a door.

Yes. Or like hundreds of children bursting out of the cupboards.

Yes. I miss that.

Yes. What's strange is that it could still be like that.

Yes. But it isn't, is it?

No. Not this time. No.



It works.

Yes. It works.

It works very well, doesn't it?

I'm not sure.

But it works.

They're very charming.

Yes, they're very charming.

And that makes it work.

It makes it feel like it works.

You can't fault the charm.

No. you can't fault the charm.


director James Macdonald has done a clever thing

yes. He's got an actress who looks not unlike Caryl Churchill and given her all but one of the scenes where the writing sounds most like Churchill writing a letter to the Guardian about her views on terrorism or Israel/Palestine or The War on Terror or whatever

this has the interesting effect of making those views seem slightly more anchored to the playwright than to the play. Right?

right. while leaving the lines intact it's like MacDonald has managed to stage them so that they are definitely just Churchill's opinions /to which

/which she's entitled /to of course

/entitled, yes. But making sure it's obvious that they're not necessarily endorsed by either director, theatre or actors whose opinions they might not necessarily be


nice mix of people

its good for

really nice that

not about being nice

about being real


real nice


Nikki, Linda, Scarlett, Amanda, Susan, Laura, John, Joshua, Paul, Billy, Justin, Amit, Rhashan, Nell, Josh, Sarah.



I had a friend who once coined the phrase “theatre-laugh”.

What's a “theatre-laugh”?

It's a joke that people would only laugh at in a theatre.

I can't help feeling it actually is a table.



but the


but effortless

don't see the

believe the

do believe it. Mostly

is an achievement

once you stop


that they could be anyone and start accepting who they

never worried about who they might

worried about who else they could have

didn't occur to me to worry about what wasn't happened. What hadn't

see how a person


I'm bored.

Me too.

Do you think they're bored?

Oh, God. I hadn't thought of that.

We've been doing this for ages now.

Yeah. Maybe we'd better liven it up a bit.

Do some funny voices you mean?

Funny voices, yes. Maybe a few more jokes. Just so they don't leave.

Do you think they'd leave if we didn't do funny voices or jokes?

Why take the chance?



She grew up in an upper middle-class home in

She read voraciously; one of her favorite books was

She compared it to

She attended college in

She received both a bachelor's and a master's degree

She came under the tutelage of

She married in

She would later state that

She had extensive knowledge of

He mentions within the text that she named her goldfish after one of his closest friends


Can we try to quantify the amount of information we have?

We could count it.

Would there be any point?

Perhaps. But is the information itself the point?

The specific information contained isn't the whole point, no.

It stands for various fields of human inquiry.

We could as well go to the front page of Wikipedia and turn some articles into dialogues?

About the procedure of how you inject radiation into the brain of a chick and then track that radiation as it spreads through the chick's synapses mapping a learning process?

For instance.

And that information is information about information.

Neat, isn't it?


do you ever get frightened?

frightened of what?

frightened by the way that there seems to be too much of everything. frightened that there is no way of knowing everything

it is a frightening feeling

and that there's no way we can possibly hope to even organise the information we do have logically

it is completely bewildering. yes


What makes you think that you'd be the right person for this job?

Well, I have a lot of experience.

I see. Experience of what?

Experience in this field.

So I see, but why do you want this job?

Because of my experience in the field.

But your experience in the field isn't really related to what this job requires.

I'm sorry, but what this job requires more than anything is experience in the field.

I think you might have misunderstood the nature of the field.

So you're saying despite all the time I've spent with this company, my experience isn't enough?

Ok, I'll be honest with you, I think the fact that you haven't grown up inside your subject is a problem.

But surely that distance gives me perspective?

Perspective, yes. But also a lack of understanding.


In the mountains, there you feel free.

Up here in the mountains Google looks like a footnote.


For all the information you've given me, you've said surprisingly little about the other thing.

You want to know what love is?

Well, I wondered. There are so many types. So many examples.

This has got lots of types and lots of examples.

The love is a lot more implied or inferred than the information, though.

But then love is mostly made up of information as well.

Is that what you're trying to tell me?

I'm not trying to tell you anything.


I think it's nearly finished. Would you like to come and see?

Oh, yes. That seems very good indeed.

You think I've got it right?




Hang on. I've done all this work for you and you're not going to tell me if it's right or not?

That's not the point of the work you've been doing.

But do you like what I've done?

It doesn't matter if I don't like it.

But I was only doing this work because you asked me to.

You needn't have agreed.



You do trust me don't you?


So it's a meditation on these two things.


Why those two things.

Well, they're important, aren't they?

Absolutely, they're central question of our age.

The Information Age


The Knowledge Economy.

Got it in one.

And Love?

The Love Economy, yes.

That's not a thing.

No. But without love it's all just rape, isn't it?

So what's the problem?

The problem is that they're not the only things.

I don't think anyone's claiming they are the only things.

But even the title, it seems to say those are the important things, even though there are plainly lots of other things.

So? It makes you think about those things, doesn't it?

I think I probably think about those things anyway.

But this makes you think about them differently?

I'm not sure it does. I think it shows lots of things people have already thought about those things again.

Isn't that how information works?

If you don't leave now, aren't you going to miss your train?


Have you seen the script?

The one from a first-time writer?

No, the one from the famous writer.



Well, I thought it was from a first-time writer, so I just put it in this drawer.

Oh, but it's from the famous writer.

Oh, well that's different.

Quite different.

If it had been from a first-time writer...

Oh, of course.

But it's from the famous writer.

So we'll put it on.

Of course we'll put it on.

Well, now I look at it again, I do see marks of genius.

Of course you do. It's by a genius.

A Genius, yes.

Not a first-time writer.

Not a first-time writer, no.


[several people]

Look, it doesn't matter what you think.

It's there now.

There's nothing you can say to change it.

But I don't want to change anything. I'm not saying I object. I was just asking some questions wasn't I?


but don't you think the rest of the body impacts


of work


not just standing alone


stands at the end of this long


development yes

themes. Strategies


What happened to trusting people?

I haven't stopped.

You sound sniffy.

I'm not sure I sound conclusive at all.


There's a lot of stuff. All I'm saying is that there's a lot of stuff. There's a lot of stuff and there are a lot of blackouts.

So it that good or bad?

Depends how you feel about stuff and blackouts and white cubes. I think it does some quite obvious things and makes those things seem cleverer by ellipsis. In a lot of ways, it's only as clever as the viewer.

So no one is going to be very willing to say it's not very good?

Clever, isn't it?


Do you like it?

It's lovely, darling. What's it for?



"O My [lines],
Why do you look so eagerly and so curiously into
people's faces,
Will you find your lost dead among them?"




One person tells a story to another

"Speakings from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complainee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. The fact is, I can't fool you, any of you. It simply isn't fair to you, or to me. The worst crime can think of would be to pull people off by faking it, pretending as if I'm having one 100% fun.
"I'm too sensitive, I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm. I still can't get out the frustration, the guilt, and the sympathy I have for everybody. There is good in all of us, and I simply love people too much. So much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little sensitive unappreciative pisces Jesus man! why don't you just enjoy it? I dont know!
"And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. Thank you from the pit of my burning nauseas stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I'm too much of a neurotic moody person and I don't have the passion anymore, so remember, it's better to burn out, than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy"




The sound of high-pitched electronic static. A click


Crackle. The sound of an old fashioned modem logging onto the internet


Silence. stillness



god, it's just blacked

is looking for a pattern in the noises a sign of

it's not like I need it to make

isn't an interval


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