Wednesday, 14 August 2013

This post will change your life*

So you know how it is. You get in a bit of a work tunnel and come out blinking into the light not sure what to do next, or who you even want to be. Well I did and I did and I wasn't and I wasn't, and then I found myself at the theatre (where I do all my best thinking anyway) seeing two brilliant plays about how to change your life. Or that's how they seemed to me, anyway. And they were very, very different.

Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation is subtle and detailed and intense. Her characters go to a six-week creative drama class in a small town in Vermont, and they don't always like it. They get frustrated, they think about leaving, they get cynical. But as they impersonate each other, pretend to be trees, improvise using made-up words, hula hoop and play trust games, they do start to change. Almost imperceptibly and often off-stage, but still. Even the most stuck characters are released. Everyone gets a glimmer of transformation.

David Greig's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a loud, exuberant, intoxicating rough theatre romp, inspired by Scottish border ballads. It's hard to say just how much I loved it. Its buttoned-up heroine, an expert on Scottish folklore, doesn't want to change. But one dark night, she crosses a border she didn't even know was there and loses her inhibitions and ends up dancing with the devil, outwitting him and gaining her freedom, in more ways than one. Her undoing becomes the making of her.

And maybe we need both kinds of change, transformation and undoing; maybe we can't change without coming undone. But both plays seemed to be saying that we're never stuck, however much it might feel like it sometimes. We can change. And isn't that exhilarating?

*It probably won't.

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