Director’s Note: Gerrard McArthur

Theatre at present seems to be in two camps that might be called the hot and the cool. The cool is to the limits of the Brechtian; it shows the scaffolding and eschews and even despises rhetoric, even colour in the actor’s voice, as obfuscatory to plain truth. Yet theatre is metaphor by nature, and essentially and always rhetorical, so the rhetoric has to go somewhere, rather like squeezing the air in a balloon: it must pop up somewhere else, and does so, in cool theatre, in the mis-en-scene. That’s where the puff is now. This theatre can carry tremendous freshness and revelation.

‘Hot’ theatre still allows for the actor’s art, doesn’t mistrust it as an axiom and confronts its potential byways into sentimentality or ‘acting’, and still aims to find truth, but without neutering the proper truth-filled sound-information excitements in our inheritance of Shakespeare and the Jacobeans. Barker long ago saw the opening up of this false division between truth and rhetoric.

It seems to me that his purpose is to have both hot and cool burners on at once.

The architecture of his rhythms and cadences – its sinews, and his character’s need to create and investigate their own identity, in a sense makes themselves their own continuous metatext. This is coupled by Barker’s immaculate sense of logical – and illogical – structure. This was the singular and modernising project pursued by Barker’s own company The Wrestling School.

In In the Depths of Dead Love, Thanatos – the irresistible death drive – is, as often, in combination with Eros. Both lead us towards the desire for transcendence. The dark encounter of the three main protagonists of this fable, predicated on the promise of the bottomless well to would-be suicides, is an entwined, subtle, and complex composition of strategies and desires. It’s clear that at least one of these protagonists has come to have a nausea of existence, but perhaps all three have. Far from hopelessness, it has given them need, and when need and possibilities combine a different transcendence offers itself.

The well master breaks his own advice not to ‘debate… encouraging, discouraging ‘have you considered this,’ ‘see it from another side,’ etcetera’ but rather to ‘imitate the well / it’s wide / wide open mouth / from which / oh / heavenly ambiguity / … no opinion ever eminates /’.

The well master intervenes.

‘Whereas the tragic protagonist has abolished hope in himself, he is not without inspiration. This inspiration is born out of the last remnant of his naivety – the conviction that at least death cannot be the world repeated…’ Barker, “Death, the One and the Art of Theatre.”

Gerrard McArthur