4 women review: critica di Paul Thomas a “La casa del 4”

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Dear Maurizio,

early morning theatre reviews (circulation: 1).

First impressions were I was very pleased to see how content you were at the end of the play, it is always a great satisfaction to see something you have worked on represented and appreciated by others. This is difficult to achieve, so well done! Generally, the actors were fine (I thought Celeste was v.good), and it is always nice to see their “accoglienza”, because I can imagine what a reward it is for them too. As we said coming back from Genova a theatrical representation is automatically a direct way of effecting and doing something with people. I think this is not to be underrated.

A few general criticisms: the form of representation is a long way from the theatrical traditions I know something about. I know nothing about avant-garde continental European theatre movements, so what I say is in ignorance of that school – a school which however belongs to the past by now (roots in modernism – early 20th c).

The form of theatre I am able to compare it with is the medieval allegory plays (mystery or morality versions), which I know in Europe has always remained influential due to certain themes. The main one being the relationship of didacticism with art. I think the form is also used politically by especially left-wing groups i.e. when political parties wish to use theatre to forward certain social themes using purely political not artistic ideas (I think there was an element of this in last night’s performance, but perhaps this was more the work of the director, rather than the writer?).

Generally, when I was growing up the creed was ‘any form of didacticism in art is wrong’. you have to look up what critics were referring to when they said this (political ideology does not get good press in Anglo-Saxon culture etc.), but I personally have always been troubled by this. The parts that most worry me about my novel, for example, are when I hear the voice of that creed in my ear, I know I’m producing something that could be construed in this way, but I can’t find a way of not doing this. This is all deeply connected, Maurizio, with the manifestation of the “intellect” in art, so I think with certain characteristics of your style. I don’t know the answer to this, it worries me concerning my own work and it definitely concerns you.

Generally the idea is that the public must draw their own lessons from what they see, they can’t be directed or told by the artist to think something, as if it is “right”. In effect, when an artist does the latter, it has a very narrowing effect on what he creates. However, it seems to me that this can reduce the vision and revelation in art. Also I think the process of learning and understanding could be a legitimate theme to a plot – I’m not sure????!! Certain moments in Greek Tragedy were very “didactic”, but the action was very powerful too. I think today the plots of dramas are very repetitive and lots of people are getting desperate to find new twists – pathetic attempts to involve ghosts and spirits in the action as if they have the force of real human beings etc. I think this issue could lead to the undoing of a critical preconception in our time???

Concerning your writing, we have already begun to talk about this. I liked the moment when “knowledge” said she couldn’t help the 4 women, but the bits about the “heart” and Eve were laboured for me. “Eve” became a list of things as if you were going to the supermarket. The idea is this: I don’t believe you can put in an abbreviated version of your own professional knowledge, which often with you is in the form of the evocation of a symbol. This is what I mean when I say it is too “abstract”, abbreviation is an indication of someone who wants to take shortcuts “scorciatoie”. This is not just me, Maurizio. I don’t even need to refer to the “symbolist” movement to show how technique makes something symbolic. They don’t do it just by the use of a single word. Generally, the action should create a single isolated symbol (not a cascata of symbols), then being symbolic has a very powerful effect and the public truly feels it is participating in the evocation of something deeply embedded in our consciousness going back hundreds of ages in history. T.S. Eliot’s plays might be a good example??? This is a process which cannot be evoked on a purely intellectualised level, because you cannot expect people to understand immediately what a symbol means for you. Symbolism is about the evocation of something deeply embedded in us, as a psychologist I’m sure you are well aware how difficult this is to bring out of anyone, let alone a theatre audience.

We could talk for ages about this and personally I feel I need to clarify these issues for myself, I think it is one of the problems I must sort out to help me write more purposefully.

Best wishes, Paul