This week I have been back in Sydney working on a new play called Infidelity – basically a dark comedy of manners around the theme of what the French politely describe as the clap of lighting – the plot involves two married couples – four characters – a American/Australian painter Marta (49), female late forties who’s married to an Australian Jewish film director Saul (60) his German London based film producer (female, 42) who’s married to an English psychologist Peter (38). It takes place in both London and Melbourne and begins after a producers screening of the director’s movie around a dinner party at Gita’s apartment in Notting hill Gate. The second act takes place a year later in Melbourne at a dinner party and Marta at Saul’s house.
Marta and Peter – individuals who are normally in the orbit of their alpha partners (to their amazement and secret chagrin) fall both in lust and in intellectual solidarity by the end of the first half of the play with both satirical and disastrous consequences.
I began the play before the current global economic crisis and then paused realising that the zeitgeist in the western world was changing so rapidly from week to week that I would have to for the dust to settle to gauge how my characters lives and behaviour would eventually be impacted by such dire economic events.
For Saul whose low budget movie loses the backing of the mainstream studio and is forced to seek post production money elsewhere to finance the edgier (and racier) cut he wants (the original reason why the studios walked) the recession makes it so much harder to realise his vision of his film, for his wife the prospect of walking out to a more precarious financial future without him (divorce has become prohibitively expensive) is daunting…For the younger English based couple life a year later is even harder. The psychologist has lost clients and the film producer a couple of costlier costume dramas and she is now contemplating getting into producing reality TV.
Certainly life is dire currently in the UK, the English seemed to be bombarded with incessant bad news almost as if the press have a certain schadenfreude about their intentions. Now back in Australia it seems that their press is a little more circumspect – also, thus far, the Australian economy doesn’t appear to be impacted as badly as the UK and the US – then again, the tidal wave might only be four months behind in Oz –hard to tell, but walking the streets, everyone appears to be a lot happier and relaxed by comparison and retail isn’t down nearly as badly as in the rest of the world.
Visually in the play I want to introduce some of Saul’s footage that had ended up on the editing floor into the play. The footage is a sex scene between Saul’s protagonists in the movie, a scene that the studio had deemed too politically incorrect and inexplicit to use (a theme close to my heart). I intend to use it to great comedic effect when Saul wanders back into the dinner room, not realising that his wife and his producer’s husband have started to make love under the table, without noticing them he switches on the outtakes and thinks the sounds of lovemaking he’s watching are coming from the screen and not under the table. Again, projection, reality and fiction all fused into one. The best most seamless example of media used in a play, in mu opinion, was Patrick Marber’s Closer (I was lucky enough to see the production he directed himself in London years ago). In that scene we have a male protagonist having intense Internet sexual flirtation with another male character via the Internet using a female persona without the other character realising. It is both hilarious, poignant and a study in loneliness and projection all at once, and is an integral part of the production (projected text on a back screen) without pulling focus from the actor on stage: A fine balancing act in a conventional modernist narrative.
This sensation that the global zeitgeist is shifting under one’s actual feet – it’s transforming so faster – made me think about how artists, writers etc are little more than creative observers who absorb then filter, digest and process the world around them. I do not believe that any real artist works in a vacuum. The challenge is to capture the universal in the specific. Some themes and primary emotional experiences never change merely the furniture and the costume.