Last night I attended a play. I wouldn’t go to the theatre that often, partly because we don’t have one nearby but I enjoyed this one immensely. My English Tongue, My Irish Heart is about emigration and its effect on personal identity, the subject of my wife’s memoir The Road Taken.
What I found fascinating about the experience was that the play was ‘in the round’, had no sets, no discernible scene changes, no costumes, and the five actors played all of the parts (spanning 1600 years) yet I shared every emotion all the way through. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that everything told me that what I was seeing wasn’t real but I was still almost in tears at the end of the first half and pleased with all their small triumphs. And it wasn’t that I share their story, I’m not Irish and although I’m an emigrant I don’t think it’s in the same way as the characters in the play.
How was this suspension of disbelief achieved? I wish I knew. Certainly the acting was very good but it was more than that. I watch TV and film drama all the time with great actors and some of it affects me emotionally and a lot doesn’t. I can only imagine it was the stripped down nature of the work which made me listen to the words – what was said and how it was conveyed. No distractions.
There’s a lesson here somewhere for my own writing. I don’t fully understand it yet, but I’ll keep thinking and, hopefully, improvement will come.