Torments R Us!


Saw TURN OF THE SCREW at the Royal Opera House. A clean production, well played and well sung, directed by Deborah Warner who is the UK's theatrical high priestess of high-class angst. At least with this being an opera we were spared Fiona Shaw, the doyenne of Warner productions, prowling the stage with her angular body and keening her woes.

'Gay Music' has been taking up the column inches recently, prompted by its inclusion as a category in the new Groves Dictionary of Music. It's great that Britten redefined opera, and conceived so distinctive a musical voice. But boy, what a tormented piece this is. Growing up gay means having to overcome society's presumption that you are 'bad' and this is essentially the story of the opera (and I presume, though don't remember, it's the same with Henry James's story). In fact it's not so much a story as a state of being. One goes round and around the problem - am I bad, is society wrong, or both?

Readers and opera goers do seem to love such stuff. Confused emotional entanglements and trauma-delving are the stuff of best-selling tales - Dave Pelzer keeps hitting the besteller lists with it. I do wish we could all step beyond it though - stop worrying about the past and how it has effected us, take today as a starting point, and see what we can conjure by setting our sights on the future.

Maybe the first step is to turn our attention from tragedy to farce. At least there's comedy in farce, a stubborn persistence, one gets up and tries again. Let's give up reading and writing about torments. It's maudlin to trap ourselves like that. Farce is a much more positive depiction of the human condition.

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