Letting it settle

5 08 2007

In his “Afterword” to Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners Timothy Findley writes about a reader’s potential  need “to sigh and to settle” after reading the novel and then goes on to explain a deal that he and his friend have. It is this passage that struck me most after reading The Diviners and has stayed with me, in a special spot in my mind, since that time. He writes:

“My friend and I have a rule when we go to plays and movies: neither of us is allowed to talk when the play or the movie is over if we perceive the other has been upset or moved by what we’ve just seen. Surely there’s nothing worse than somebody breaking in on your own reflections with: ‘Wow! What a piece of garbage!’ Or even with: ‘Wasn’t that terrific!’ It doesn’t really matter whether the voice breaking in agrees with you or disagrees. The point is, the only voice that matters when an experience is over is the voice of the experience itself.”

It could certainly apply to a reading of The Diviners and to any reading that has impacted you emotionally, but it stayed with me more in terms of theatre, and with two productions in particular, the two most extraordinary plays I’ve had the privilege of seeing. The first was Findley’s own Elizabeth Rex. The second was David Edgar’s Pentecost, which I saw this afternoon. The play is really twofold, though I know by saying twofold that implies a division between the two major concerns of the play and there is much more a meshing or intertwining of those concerns. The play is concerned with art and the role of art and what it represent and also with refugees and nationalism. There are shades of history and guilt and trauma and responsibility, which shade everything in the play. It is also a play about humanity and about being human and about the interactions between human beings – be they hateful, loving, cruel or merciful.

I want to write about the play or what I should say is I will want to write about it and the ideas it presents once I’ve had time to finish listening to “the voice of the experience” as Findley put it. It is still with me that voice and I don’t know if I’ve even heard half of what it has to say yet.

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