The pattern for me over the last 15 years or so, has been “creation” as it is called in the theatre parlance. What does it mean exactly? What is the process really?
I suppose it is different for each person; I can only describe how I see it, how I go about it…
From 1983 for about 20 years, I directed written texts — these were plays by Genet, Beckett, Albee, Brecht, Karnad, amongst others. After a point, you want a bigger intervention in the piece. You want to write your play, tell your own story in a way. By the mid-90s, I had also started writing film scripts for myself — pushing me further into the “telling my own stories” way.
The first play that came out of this process was C for clown.
We started that piece with a simple idea — a play about clowns. I did not know any more than that, except that the clowns fascinated me, and that I wanted to explore deeper.
With this bee in the bonnet, one started an adventure — mind you — without a plot, or a story or characters. We had nothing at the start.
Rehearsals were a process of exploration — we started working with objects, with music, with language (how would clowns speak, and this led us to discovering a powerful speech tool, which is no speech at all, and yet so expressive: gibberish).
We started working with actors, on their own individual clowns. And slowly, out of all this, characters emerged, a plot came about… and finally a play. The process was exhilarating and the result, a lot better than what we had imagined.
The process was the same for A Blue Mug, a play about memory, which I was part of but did not direct. And for the next two plays that I directed we started with a text at least — Hamlet and King Lear, both by William Shakespeare. And an idea of clowns, and we started with the idea, okay let’s see where we can go with this. I knew that the conventional Shakespearean production did not excite me, would put me to sleep most likely. We had to make the texts our own, had to infuse them with our lives, our experiences, our world. We had to find the greater resonance of those texts, contextual to our times.
Eventually we had two versions of Shakespeare that were absolutely new, innovative and original. Hamlet: The Clown Prince has done over 180 shows in the last 7 years and Nothing like Lear about 95 in three years; and both still running to full houses.
I firmly believe that the mind is a limited organ. What you think, or can think is limited.
But what you learn from experience is huge, and what you achieve if one can be open to experiential learning can also be huge.
In art, (as in great scientific discovery, I believe) not knowing is an advantage. If you already know where you are going, the best case scenario will be reaching your destination — nothing more.
But if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably achieve a lot more because the mind is not limited by any givens. If only we had enough courage to follow our instincts (and as artistes, we must follow our experience over ideas), the world of imagination is laid bare in front of you, and one ends up in a place that we didn’t know existed.
And that is a place of rare beauty.
And the joy you had in reaching that place, somehow the audience feels that joy, relates to it and experiences the same joy.
This for me is the only worthwhile artistic journey.