I was fortunate to spend 45 mins in the presence of William Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark on Monday night at the National Theatre. William Gaskill was giving a Platform Talk and it was linked with his new book Words into Action.
I originally went just to hear these two giants of theatre talk/lecture and muse, which they did, however I immediately rushed to the foyer following the Platform and bought a copy of this wonderful book. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but I REALLY recommend this to all those interested in theatre,be that actors/directors/designers/students.
It was wonderful hearing BIll Gaskill talk about his experiences working with Olivier, Bond, and Beckett (amongst others), and hearing his insights and thoughts on the current theatre scene. Max also contributed and I could have listened to them all night.
A particular highlight was hearing Bill talk about his experience of seeing the Berliner Ensemble coming to England in 1956 and him describing their work as “beautiful and meaningful, it’s unusual to get both”. I’ve read so much about that visit in my module at college last year, to actually hear someone talking about it and reminiscing was amazing and brought it to life more so that any book I’ve read. It also made me realise what a key moment that visit was in British theatre, one that is perhaps overlooked.
His passion for the words of the text is refreshing. As so often directors especially, seem to think they can chop and change the writers words, which regular readers of my blog will know gets on my wick too.
I was also struck by how often they referred to theatre as a “craft”, with an enormous respect for it, something that I feel is also not done enough today. Theatre is a “craft”, which we need to work at and be expert craftsmen. I certainly came away with a deeper respect for this “craft”, and the example of these two luminaries is worth bearing in mind.
My notebook is full of wise words here are a few I jotted down;
- ” Argument is not a bad word, it’s a very useful word in rehearsal.” to which Max added “remember you don’t need to win them all either, win the right ones!”
- “Know what banner you want to work under, and know what you Do and what you DON’T admire.” (and why)
- “Theatres have been handed over to directors, and in my view that’s not a good thing.”
- “Theatre is about writers and actors, the director is a midwife.”
- “The reason there are no decent right-wing plays is that there are no decent right-wing writers”
It was a great evening and time really well spent, I truly felt honored to have the opportunity to listen to their wise words.
Max quoted the last sentence/question from the book and I feel it’s worth sharing
“Today the amount of talent in writing and acting is enormous, but not enough is focused or shared. We live in an individualistic, competitive society, but does it have to dominate our work?”
Something for us all to ponder upon.