Day 4: Don’t get mad, get insight!
Watching a film screening, after a fascinating talk.
Kicking off KCL’s Arts and Humanities Festival, this year all about the topic of Play, was a screening of The Madness of King George.
It was preceded by a fascinating talk by Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner – the writer and director respectively, of both the stage play, The Madness of George III, and of the film. 28th November this year marks the 25th anniversary of the play’s debut.
The insights – particularly into the experience of adapting the play into a film, which was a new experience for the pair – were extremely interesting. I was especially enamoured with the description of how, through total ignorance of the craft of making a film, Hytner didn’t know not to ask for everything he desired, and by doing so was able to make such a spectacular film.
How do we defend Play as an end in itself?
I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask a question, and, given the theme of the festival is Play, asked how we defend (or if it is even desirable to do so) Play for its own sake, rather than as a vector for other goods.
Bennett responded that theatre does an adequate job on its own, simply by being so entertaining. He was quick to say that writing isn’t enjoyable, but that staging plays are. I hope, in the course of my 100 Days of Play to challenge the notion that writing can’t be Play, but that’s a different question to whether it is enjoyable, I guess.
Hytner responded by saying that he’d had to do this for 12 years, as Artistic Director of the National Theatre. He had all the arguments – from the economic to the educative. But there’s a reason, he suggests, why the Germans spend as much on Arts in a year as the Coalition Government did in their entire term: that Germans don’t feel the need to question ‘Why Play?’ It’s just obvious as a good to them. But he did contrast the model there – of theatre as high art for the elite – with the English standard, of theatre as entertainment for the masses. There are advantages to each system, he suggests.
The film itself (which is what I’m taking as Play)
“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” ― Ingmar Bergman