On Monday, I went up to Oran Mor to watch Could You Please Look Into The Camera. An old friend of mine is in it, and invited me a while back. He was Pentheus to my Dionysis many moons ago, and it was great to see him again.
Now, I’ve always loved A Play, A Pie and A Pint. Let me name the ways. It’s really good value. For £10 this week, I got fifty minutes of theatre, a very tasty pie and an equally tasty pint of Guinness. To get all these things for so little is wonderful value. To enjoy them at 1pm on a Monday afternoon is really something splendidly decadent. Well worth it.
I also bumped into another old friend of mine, a Writer of Books. This kind of thing happens in Scottish theatres. I hadn’t seen The Writer of Books for a number of years, and it was an added bonus. After we’d watched the play, which considers three released Syrian prisoners whose stories are being recorded on film by a young woman, he said he’d enjoyed the play, but he didn’t know what it was for.
Now, I can’t speak for the playwright, the cast, the director, or for NTS, but here’s what I think. The job of theatre, and of the arts in general, isn’t to catalogue the details of what has been happening to people. It isn’t journalism, or reportage. It isn’t a court of law or a government enquiry.
Rather, it’s an act of expression. The play gives these people a voice, and it explores the emotional impact on their lives. Not just when they’re inside, but how the experience has changed them after their release.
Now, there are four characters. There are fifty minutes. The extent to which their characters can be explored is limited. But even in that short space of time, a real picture of who they are emerges. As well as what happened to them, and how it has changed them.
Unquestionably, there is more to the Syrian situation, and more to the Arab Spring than is covered in this play. But to expect anything else is a little disingenuous to my mind. Could You Please Look Into The Camera is part of One Day In Spring, a season of six plays from the Middle East curated by David Greig.
The Arab Spring didn’t happen in a day, or in six weeks, and we may not know how that part of the world was changed by it for years to come. But by bringing their voices to audiences in Scotland NTS, Oran Mor, The Traverse Theatre, The Tron Theatre and The Arches are showing solidarity with artists and ordinary people throughout the Arab world. That, I believe, is what it is for. What about you?