I think a play synopsis is kind of like a dating profile: uncomfortably one-sided and often guessing at what wants to be heard. Like a dating profile it must be brief but detailed enough to be unique, self-advertising but not arrogant, and above all, avoid clichés. Truthfulness can carry a play a great way, but bound by a word count, I think synopses rely a lot more on cleverness, on artifice.
We must admit that the first thing we turn to on a dating profile is the picture. And if I’m being generous to our superficial society, I’d throw out the idiom that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. So, what do the images for this year’s NSDF shows tell us about them?
The most powerful visual, for me, is Vibrations’. Its collage combines different mediums, with photography and almost infantilely sporadic drawing, reminding me of the irregularity of Matthew Grimes’ art. Combined with the image’s use of garish colours alongside monotones, it brings me to question how art can be a unified whole while the individual elements are never fully resolved. And then the distorted, twistedness of the central image gives it energy, even connecting to the aurality implied by the title. Perhaps this picture is worth a thousand words, because I have a primarily a visceral response, and only secondarily an intellectual one. Perhaps art, not written synopses, are more like theatre in that sense.
Vibrations’ two sentence synopsis seems to be a pretty conventional plot. But their image makes me anticipate something less predictable, or even explicable, something beyond plot. The awesome writer, David Shields, describes collage as “an evolution beyond narrative”. I really hope this play’s image is not a catfish, and we will see theatre evolving not merely in an online format, but in other ways, this year.
But, probably much to the relief of the publicity teams, my interest was sparked by more than just the images.
The energised comedy of The SCRUBBERS Guide to Drama School was purely fun, and I’m so here for seeing feminism approached in a joyous not profound context!
Home and Rum & Coke intrigued rather than interested me. They give barely any actual information, and like a frame without a photo, I want it to be filled.
This is a Love Song’s self-referential, meta style made me uncomfortably aware of their artistic control. And pulled at what, for me, is the core of theatre: destabilising this sense of our everyday, comfortable selves.
Seen describes itself as “a cry to be understood”. This longing to express foremost and impact secondarily is raw and impassioned. It reminds me of Steven Berkoff’s author’s note for the play East: he sees it as his personal experiences and demons “struggling within [him] to escape”. And doesn’t passion, rather than anything constructed to appeal, draw you in?
Basically, I’ve come to think, synopses, like dating profiles, are a lot more to do with emotions, and less about giving information, than we might care to admit.