I can recall the last time the MTC did something that excited me. It was Copenhagen and it was too long ago. If you want safe, professional theatre the MTC’s the place. If you want something that will excite you like you haven’t been excited since your first ever visit to the theatre, go to Red Stitch. The amazing thing is that Red Stitch, despite being brave, has almost no duds.
Still, the MTC has to come up with something special now and then and Realism by Paul Galloway is just that. I don’t want to describe it in detail as it will spoil the dramatic effect of what happens. Suffice to say it is hugely entertaining, almost a farce, while being as moving as a play must be which is fixed in Soviet Russia of the 1930s. It’s important that the cast is excellent: in the hands of lesser actors I don’t think this clever play would work.
Galloway talks about his life, writing and this play in particular here.
He says there that:
I love theatre because it’s not important. And long may it remain so. If it were important, Governments would be interested in it and they’d screw it up for everyone. In the Soviet Union under Stalin, the arts and literature became so important that people were murdered and imprisoned over it. Theatre should never be worth dying for. It should merely be worth living for—one of many things worth living for in a good and varied life. Who’d want it any other way? After all, what is pleasure but the feeling that arises from doing what you don’t need to do?
It’s a provocative thought and I can’t say that I altogether agree with it. It was the lot of the people Galloway writes about that they didn’t want to be important but were made so. Still, art – and theatre in particular – has from time to time seen its obligation to be part of a struggle. It has chosen to be there in the thick of it. Actually, the more I think about it the more I know Galloway is wrong. Theatre is important. Fortunately that does not mean it mustn’t be entertaining. I think Galloway, in Realism, manages to be both.