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Is anything Original?

In a recent interview with Joyce McMillan, she wrote that Rapture had a “self-imposed distance from the creative centre of a Scottish theatre scene often driven by the energy of current writers and the pursuit of ever newer kinds of new work.”

It struck me as odd at the time that creativity, and indeed the creative centre, was associated with new work and current writers. Indeed, the fact that Joyce and her fellow critics have awarded ‘Best Production’ in their yearly CATS awards over the last two years to productions of plays by Beckett and Brecht does suggest that the ‘new’ does not always equate to overall quality.

I would suggest that perhaps there is no such thing as the ‘new’ or ‘original’ and, also conversely, that all creative work is ‘original’. For example, the acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has openly admitted to the films that have influenced his brand of original filmmaking. Also Shakespeare, one of this country’s legendary playwrights, was often influenced by stories and indeed other playwrights of the time when writing his plays. Both Tarantino and Shakespeare are seen as innovators, yet were they really original?

Conversely, when you read Hamlet, on the page it is ‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet’, yet when you direct or act in the play it becomes ‘original’ –that is because it becomes ‘your Hamlet’. It is infused with your creative DNA, your artistic decisions and your imaginative impulse. It is now new, original, creative and yours! Perhaps we should substitute the word ‘new’ or ‘original’ with ‘authentic’; authentic to you and your creative impulse, whether you are you or Tarantino or Shakespeare.

There is often a pressure in the Scottish Theatre scene to be heralded as ‘innovative’, ‘new’, ‘original’, etc. Theatre companies see that critics and funding bodies get excited about a sense of innovation, of daring to be different, of new writing and supposedly fresh ideas. As a result, they sometimes throw the innovation and the politically correct box ticking ‘kitchen sink’ at their project in an attempt to tick the funders’ box and tickle the critics’ pallet.

This, I feel, is actually counter-productive to being genuinely creative and authentic. Time and again audiences delight in seeing a director marry his or her genuine and authentic artistic impulse to an existing classic text than to a one who gets themselves tied up in site-specific, multi-art form, devised, new work knots.

So let’s all aim to be authentic and true to our own artistic selves. There ensues the true creative centre—the creative centre that exists in all of us.


Published in Director's Blog