>The above is one of my favourite movie quotes, and I find it particularly insightful when applied to this article in The Guardian by my own playwright role model, Mark Ravenhill, whose play Shopping and Fucking convinced me of the power of writing for the stage and how subversive it could be.
Essentially, it’s the standard “I’m too old for this shit” treatise that anyone in any profession is apt to echo, but it’s interesting to see how Ravenhill claims that he is holding onto his rebel status by choosing to write heterosexual themes at the moment:
Now, I’m surprised to say, I’m happy never to write another gay character
again. It feels as though every aspect of the gay experience has been narrated,
performed and picked over in the past 30 years. It has left us with some
brilliant work. Alongside all the bad generic gay work, artists such as Derek
Jarman, Alan Hollinghurst, Tony Kushner and others have left a body of work that is both gay and great. But that work seems over now.
Right now, I’m eager to explore the strange, twilight world of the
heterosexual – to expose its anguishes and mysteries and unconscious
comedies. Maybe one day there will be something to pull me back to the gay
experience, the sense of something new to be said about the gay world. But, for
the moment at least, my lavender quill is at rest.
Something seem odd there to you? It does to me.
One of the major tenets of performance writing–especially for stage–is that character comes first. Personality, history, all the things about life experience are present whenever a character speaks. Now perhaps my naivete is showing, but one thing I remember very clearly being affected by is in how the playwright creates and reveals these aspects. If these characters were gay, then it was a part that informed them and also my own understanding. If they weren’t, I didn’t view it as a stumbling block.
I wonder whether Ravenhill–and his success–has lead him to distrust in his own abilities to create characters that are incidentally gay. As a fan, I’ve always read his characters that way, so I wonder why he feels they were always GAY with capital letters lit up like a rainbow.
Ravenhill’s work for the most part has always been intimate in terms of setting–at least in my view. I always had the sense that he was using the insularity and self-obsessiveness of the characters to make a comment about society at large.
So why refocus on heterosexuals?
He claims they offer him more vision of a modern Britain, but do they?
I would say chances are likely not.
What I see hiding underneath the words of the article is well…a Don Quixote…or perhaps Stockholm Syndrome.
While I agree with his themes of the homogenised gay characters, I suspect that his statement is triggered more by fear of unemployment/relevance, rather than fatigue.
Another dead old puppy.