A very full day. Dennis Kelly came in this afternoon to talk to the Level 1 students about his work. It was a brilliant session full of wisdom, insight and candour. Over the last decade Dennis has, perhaps more than any other writer, been on the money. Osama the Hero - a play in which a vigilante group take revenge on a young man they believe has terrorist sympathies was produced at Hampstead just weeks before the 7/7 bombings in London and more recent work such as Love and Money and Orphans seemed to anticipate our loss of trust both in institutions and accepted moral authority. In many ways Dennis, although he'd probably strenuously deny it, is one of the writers fulfilling theatre's ancient and role: warning of things to come.
We ran class like a platform session at the National. I asked a couple of general things and then turned to the students who brilliantly and hungrily filled the next hour and a half with thoughtful and fascinating questions.
Dennis in turn responded with patience and great humour teasing out each comment and thinking fresh about each point raised.
He suggested that one of the reasons his plays worked was because he was an average guy, who thought average thoughts. He figures if something interests or concerns him, then it's likely to concern a fair few others.
'I'm not a moral person,' he said 'I don't really think I can teach anybody anything. I write good people, who I understand and then I put them into terrible situations and see how they react. I think the definition of a good writer is one who can write characters into impossible situations and then write them out the other side.'
After the lecture I hurried over to the Lyric, Hammersmith to see Sean Holmes' production of Edward Bond's groundbreaking sixties classic Saved. It's the first London revival of the play for 25 years. Drama St Mary's old girl Monsay plays the part of Liz, a small role, with one decent scene, but, having had some time of to have a baby, it's great to see her back on stage. The gal done good.
Steph O'D was also around and it was wonderful to catch up. She's stayed on at the theatre after assisting on Blasted last year and is currently in rehearsals with Filter for the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream which comes in in February.
Saved itself is a cracking play and the revival in post-riot London is a timely reminder of the social problems that creating a deficit culture provokes. There have been huge material gains for all of us since the 1960s, but the intellectual emptiness and moral vacuum at the heart of the story rings as true now as it did then. Consumerism has not enriched us and the outcome of allowing a culturally impoverished underclass to evolve, as both Bond and Kelly are quick to remind us, is invariably violent. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.