The Third Crisis – Meeting Edward Bond

One year, three months, fourteen days ago, in Vitry, a commune of southeastern suburbs of Paris – described somewhat enthusiastically by TimeOut as “a suburban hub of contemporary art and modern theatre” – I was attending the productions of two plays of British playwright Martin Crimp, in the presence of the author and his wife and daughter. It was a cosy event in chalet-like studio theatre of Vitry. I had read a few pages of Martin Crimp’s play ‘Attempts of her life’, and had been required to learn a few lines for an artistic event at my own drama school. I knew fuck-all about British theatre, and next to nothing of the art of drama. But there I was eating spreadable meat paste and pickles with an author on my school syllabus. I heard him tell one of the lads next to me, with tongue in cheek, that ‘Playhouse’ was his “happy play”. I was sitting next to him and his family during the second play ‘The City’, which has a scene portraying a daughter from hell, covered in blood, dressed in leather and almost Frankenstein-like result of a surgical experiment. And I could not help thinking of the author at his writing table, being disturbed by his own young child and investing some of his anxieties and frustrations as characterisation material for his play. Even more I was unashamed of indulging in this rapport between the author, his life and his work. Something which I had always regarded as vulgar so far, and that I probably still frown upon.

Anyway, a few months later I found myself in similar situation. Getting another live first-hand account of drama by a major contemporary playwright, whose work I had totally preserved myself of. And it was mental. I will not speak of what it meant to find ourselves sitting in as audience members in the parterre of Salle Richelieu at 10am on a Monday, in what Edward Bond reminded us to be the “house of Molière”. Being greeted by Éric Ruf, the institution chief administrator. As ground-sounding as I make it, none of our excitement had to do with our nonetheless thriving narcissisms. We were itching to hear real makers in the drama realm have a go at their own elaborations about theatre. The closest thing to what I and two of my mates had been doing for the past few months, trying to put words on our acting/playing. And God, we had a ball. 

Once his introduction speech made Éric Ruf retreated, and we were left with Edward Bond and Jérôme Hankins, the French translator of his plays, sitting almost too closely on two conference folding chairs, and a third chair on stage at some distance which would remain desperately empty during the whole address. That combined to the unique concord of the two men, the alert kindness of Jérôme Hankins, and cheeky, jokey attitude of Bond had us already enthralled. The latter went straight to the point, telling us that theatre had known three crises and that we were living the third one. Of course there had been million of crises, all in all, but for the sake of his argument there had really been three: we were witnessing and/or taking part of Third Crisis. Too much was said then to be recensed in this post. I would rather come back on many of the points addressed by the dramatist in future posts. I guess at this stage I wanted to stress on how puzzling it actually was for me to get to see the author talk, move, joke, unravel his thoughts, act i.e. perform on stage his actual understanding of what is a situation, what is – although he did not use the word – an event. Beforehand, as someone who had never read anything from Bond, I was almost sure that the violence, the appetite for destruction which I perceived through my comrade’s choices of scenes and monologues, had little to do with my cup of drama, and was sure to leave me unimpressed. The moment the 81-year-old Londoner started to talk I was won over. He was not talking about the Greeks – OK he was – nor about the Blitz, but he was talking from Athens, and certainly the young teenage boy of 1945 is never too far.