Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chris Goode's KING PELICAN


Plymouth's Drum Theatre continues its inventive support of new writing with Chris Goode's King Pelican.
The play mines Chris Goode's long obsession with the works of Edward Lear, the little man roaming around the stage while words spew delicate streams from his mouth. It's a curious evening, Lear's sister Ann dying in a bed on an upper level and subsequently embarking on a series of letters from heaven, the downstairs Victorian drawing-room suddenly exploding, walls collapsing and water spouting to surround the drawing room, Lear's words becoming those of King Lear marooned on his island.
The play is the first that Chris Goode has ever sat down to write, an experience he disliked and vows never to repeat. For him, the theatre experience gains its magic from co-operation, actors sharing the synergy of creation. For a while Edward Lear voices his fears at speaking words before impressionable Johnny, the postboy who is the third member of the cast, because any words will be etched on the young man's brain, they are an unwarranted intrusion into his life.
The boy seeks exactly that kind of intrusion. He strips naked to demand Lear breaks through the carapace of Victorian conformity and look at him, finally placing Lear's hand onto his naked stomach. He returns in tight jeans on a skateboard, morphing unremarked, but for a surprised glance, into a twenty-first century man. The theatre is being brought into the audience's world, this shift in time supporting Lear's opportunities to break from the conformity and repression of Victorian culture.
The play sometimes seems to choke on its words, there are so many of them, but it is surprisingly gentle. Characters are portrayed with love. For Chris Goode (speaking after the show), admitting that one is naturally a sad person, that melancholy is the most dynamic stream in your life, is as significant as coming out gay, and Lear gets to portray both aspects of exictence.
At the close, a makeshift boat is erected and Lear and Johnny sail off in the guise of the owl and the pussycat. Much of the play on stage is visual in this way, not so much anchored to text. This element of play is quite freeing, and the end is a delight.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Chris Goode said...

Hi Martin: thanks so much for this interesting and sensitive response. Just a minor point worth correcting: KP is not, in fact, the first script I've written outside of a devising process and in advance of rehearsal. I started out as a playwright in the mid/late 90s and, having written three professionally-produced plays, then moved away from that model for the reasons you identify: so KP is an instance of baffling recidivism, rather than a naive wrong turn. Actually, not so baffling: I really very much enjoyed writing the script of my previous Drum piece, Speed Death of the Radiant Child, and thought maybe I had become reconciled with (play) writing. But even the little bit of devising to which Speed Death... responded was obviously enough to make all the difference: that was great fun, if stressful; KP was no fun (in the writing of it), and I felt like a heel.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Many thanks for yours, Chris ... I do appreciate your dropping by, and am happy to be corrected.
It's curious the process left you feeling 'like a heel'. King Pelican is a curiously endearing play - none of the more usual overt conflict. Your Lear has internal conflict of course, but he's open about it, and everything about the play (as against his society) is supportive about helping him through. I wonder if the 'feeling like a heel' aspect comes from the play's touching on such personal material. I know I feel the same when airing myself, a more vulnerable side, in public ... or my periods of enforced vaunting, on the promotional trail. I immediately feel sullied, your 'like a heel', and it can take ages to heel. It's some psychological faultline running through me I guess, some internalized guilt rap I've yet to throw.
Still, if an outside perspective helps, your discomfort in writing the play is just one strand of reality. From my side, I'm grateful for something so tenderly done ... like Lear and Johnny on their boat, it set me more free.

8:40 AM  

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