Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Sport and Drama.

In between sorting out flowers, printing programmes, helping to write vows and family visits I'm finding a bit of time to catch up on my reading. I'm not great at focusing on what I should over the summer and, despite having a decent chunk of time to refresh my head, always seem to arrive in early September with a mild panic at how little subject specific research I've done.

Still inspired by Naples I've read De Fillipo's collected plays - which would be fun to direct -and a couple of brief histories on Pompeii - but mostly I've found myself turning to sports philosophy. Ed Smith's brilliant "What Sport Teaches us About Life" and, in deference to my American adventure, Michael Lewis' hymn to baseball pragmatism "Moneyball".

The drama department have made a commitment to support St.Marys 2012 - a project focused on ensuring that the Olympics don't pass the University by. I'm the representative advising on the input into the Cultural Olympiad - so I can justify my choices, albeit thinly.

One of the things we've struggled with in our discussions is trying to find a link between sport and drama. Many of the project proposals focus on colour, life and carnivalesque celebration - but are compromised in terms of their content by the 'need' to be universal in appeal.

It seems odd to me that there should be problems here. My love of sport comes from its drama - the flawed psychology of its heroes and heroines, - the spontaneous decision making of top athletes, combining prowess with intelligence, building over many years a seemingly inevitable narrative of triumph and despair etc etc. These evolving biographies seems essentially to contain the same search for a moral imperative that great playwrights, throughout the ages, have sought to capture for their protagonists.

Hasn't Beckham lived out a morality play of sort? or Gascoigne? or Zidane? Navratilova? Michael Jordan? Schumacher? Zola Budd? Ben Johnson? Shane Warne? They are the heroes and anti-heroes of our time.

For all this there are very few great plays about sport or sportsmen and women. Aside from The Changing Room by David Storey, which focuses brilliantly on the dynamic of 13 rugby league players and their coaches, owners and trainers, Richard Bean's cricket loving The English Game and the NYT's, high octane recreation of the northern terrace culture in the sixties, Zigger Zagger - there's little out there that I'm aware of.

It'd be exciting to commission something for 2012. Maybe on the Coe v Ovett battle that gripped the nation at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (see above). It felt, at the time, like a clash of two very different Gods and, with hindsight and the monumental changes that occurred in the world during the eighties, might there not be something of interest in the legacy of that particular moment to explore?

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