I don’t know about everyone else, but in my mind (for some reason) I envisaged a great conflict between the writer and the director – the former offended about how their perfectly crafted, well-thought out piece has been chopped and changed by the latter whose artistic vision is a polar opposite to theirs. Whilst this may sometimes be the case it certainly isn’t all the time. To be quite truthful, I was a little disappointed – perhaps the journalist in me would have enjoyed such an angle!
Over the course of the day I was fortunate enough to watch two exceptional plays, both very different yet equally as thought provoking – whether for the didactic message presented by Hilary Bell in her play Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me or for Anders Lustgarden’s politically charged piece Socialism is Great, both were highly successful and it was clear that both were received well by the audience. Yet I was drawn to exploring the relationship between writer and director and seeing how a formed idea on the page can be brought to life and whether the end result is always what the writer had conceived.
As Anders Lustgarten said, “intent [of the play] is always there from the beginning. I always have something to say and have a way to make it come alive.” So what does he suggest when the play in performance is vastly different to the play he had written? He simply had to “chalk it up to experience, but next time have [his] finger on the pulse from the beginning.”
I was interested in whether all writers have had an experience in which their work just wasn’t re-enacted in a way they had thought it would be. For Hilary Bell her play in performance was much different from how she had imagined it; “[the play] was parallel to my vision, the cast made some distinct choices, particularly the use of Greek chorus, which I didn’t intend”
however, Bell still appreciated the effectiveness of the chorus. A runner for the NT Connections festival who also has written plays has certainly had such an experience as “I am quite precious about [my plays.] I did a writers and directors workshop and I had to give a director my piece, it was actually quite painful to watch as I am one of those writers who have a clear vision and what the director was doing was good, but was completely different to what I had in my mind.”
I had imagined directors having complete control over the interpretation of these plays, but this idea was quickly deflated after talking to Deborah, one of directors who worked with all the directors of these plays in the directors’ workshop, she discussed her deep sense of worry when directing a new piece as she believes it’s her “job to serve the play and the writer.” She also discussed that there is a sense of some conflict as “when you embark on a journey you want to see where the play goes, there may be an instinct to go down a slightly different route, but your ultimate job [as director] is to serve the play.”
Despite me searching avidly for some inherent sense of conflict between these two parties what I found instead was a sense of mutual understanding, and a real desire to get to the heart of the piece and perform it in a way that is befitting of the brilliant cast members, director and writer. The end result of this ‘conflict’? Two incredible, evocative plays that stay true to the writers’ vision whilst still expressing the creativity of the director and cast members.