Monday, November 8, 2010

Art versus Entertainment

Recently, I attended 2 "drama" events which brought into sharp relief the great divide between using creativity for entertainment purposes as opposed to artistic purposes.

Working primarily in television, I've typically been faced with the goal of entertaining.  But when I saw the play "Blasted" by Sarah Kane and "Miscreants of Taliwood" a documentary film by George Gittoes, I left both events not entertained, but devastated.  Hardly entertained, in fact, but deeply affected.

"Blasted" is Beckett on steroids. A hotel room in Leeds appears to be the setting for a sleazy assignation between a middle-aged journalist and a naive young woman.  After raping her, the story takes a turn for the worse, so to speak, when war appears to break out and a soldier enters the room, raping the journalist before killing himself.  As life in the room and outside the room deteriorates, the journalist is reduced to the basest parts of being human.

I left the theatre reminded of the power of real theatre, the theatre that began with the Greeks 2500 years ago.  This is what catharsis must have felt like to the Greeks when they watched Oedipus blind himself.  (Kane uses a similar event in her play in fact.)

Hardly a Neil Simon comedy.  (And I worship Neil Simon.)  But this theatre is not pleasant.

"Miscreants of Taliwood" takes us into Peshawar, Pakistan and behind the scenes of the indigenous low-rent genre movie industry where features are made for $4000 and sold by the producers one DVD at a time.  But the Taliban is threatened by the appeal of these movies and blow up DVD stores and threaten the film makers with death in order to eliminate them from influencing the populace.  Artists are the enemy of religious zealotry.  The imagined baseness of human behaviour in "Blasted" is real in the world of Taliwood, (Taliban plus Bollywood), with beheadings and bombings an everyday occurrence.  It showed that the world Kane imagined in "Blasted" is actually the world we live in, at least the people in Pakistan live in.

Don't misunderstand me.  Both works are entertaining.  They're just much more than that.  Both are works of art.  Both use creativity and artistry to reach into the audience's soul.  You can choose to do that, if you have something to say, or you can remain at the level of entertaining.  Nothing wrong with that, but when an artist takes you beyond entertainment, it affects you forever.

I was humbled and inspired by this work.

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