Ronald Bryden - An Appreciation (6)

(Part six of an essay on Ronald Bryden. Please track back to find the introduction and parts one to five . . . and, remember, a blog is chronological so start at the beginning of the month.)

Bryden's twin imperatives for the avant garde in the latter half of the 20th century -- shock with verbalised language and explore the infinite world of possible human motives -- found their masters in Tom Stoppard, Jean Genet, Bertolt Brecht even Terence Rattigan. But Harold Pinter is especially favoured. Pinter, of course, uses language and its limitations to circumscribe motive and character:

"So that where Beckett's people become types, caricatures, gabbling turnips, Pinter's are precisly individuated. Rumsey, Bates and Ellen in Silence are little more than three antiphonal litanies of recurring phrases, but the phrases are so sharply, arrestingly chosen that Anthony Bates, Norman Rodway and Frances Cuka can build them into formidable cameos of character, stonily unlike anyone else you ever knew." (July 6, 1969)

Bryden rightly saw in Pinter's choice of words and silences, and the antiphonal relationship between the two, the near perfect union of intention and words; of idea and presentation.

Given Bryden's conviction that the textures and use of language are the most dramatic of human gifts, it would seem to follow that Shakespeare's plays would engage him most urgently. This was the case . . . but not exclusively for reasons of poetry. Bryden's approach to productions of Shakespeare's works, especially at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, was not to linger over the meaning of the poetry or Shakespeare's implied intentions -- both academic exercises and, in the theatre, pointless at that. The issue for Bryden wasn't the writing, or what Shakespeare meant to say, or how Elizabethan theatrical convention can inform our understanding of the playwright's intentions. Bryden wanted to explain the experience engendered by the sum of elements brought together . . . at that performance . . . at that time.

Ronald Bryden - An Appreciation (7)

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