The theatre director Harold Clurman once said that if you get 60% of what you saw in your head onto the stage, you’re doing well. It has been nearly six weeks since Betrayal ended, and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on that comment.
One of the things I’ve concluded is that I don’t have a complete picture of a show in my head before I start, even when I’m pursuing a dream. In fact, sometimes I think that as a director, I have something of a blind spot. I can usually hear the text inside my head pretty clearly. And I know, when I think about it, the kind of colours that I want for the set, and an idea of what the costumes might need to look like for the time period, and if you really push me I might even come up with some key lighting moments, or a sound track that’s a must.
But it isn’t until I sit down with designers and then with the cast that I start to see how the show could really look and sound and feel, and often not until deep into rehearsals.
Perhaps I’m not alone in that. Perhaps Mr Clurman would allow for that kind of time lag. But I can’t help thinking that experienced professional directors of his standing read a script and just – know. On the other hand, where does that leave the art of collaboration?
In any case, it doesn’t matter, not this time. When I try to sum up how I feel about the end result, I can’t resist recalling some words that I wrote back in May:
Last weekend I was lucky enough to see a matinee performance of Beckett’s Play and Endgame… what struck me most as I waited outside afterwards was that every person who came blinking out of the theatre…was talking about the show. Some liked it, some were perplexed by it, some were discussing its significance…; but it was the topic of conversation…. And that, above all else, is what I hope for with Betrayal.
I hoped for it, and we did it. After every performance, people lingered in the foyer to talk about what they’d seen, what they thought, what they wanted to ask, just as I had dreamed they might. I brought Pinter to Palo Alto, and people familiar with his work and those who came fresh to it enjoyed and appreciated him. As one man said to me on his way out, “Pinter would be proud”. I think so. I don’t know about the 60%, but I do know that I got exactly what I wanted.
And that, for now, is that.