I have had a heady autumn dealing with four plays by four great male playwrights, two dead (Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter), two very much living (Steven Berkoff and David Pinner). And now the season is closing with a play by a relatively unknown, new playwright, Geraldine Alexander, and I find myself more excited about this play than any of the others — and I’m not sure why, so maybe I’ll figure it out while blogging, if not today than some other.
But I know this, I had a hard copy of her play to read in my backpack when I was on a train journey to meet my lawyer to discuss my divorce, and I really wanted to be distracted but doubted anything could. Amygdala did, to my surprise, so that, when finally came out of the meeting, I couldn’t wait to forget about the division of our financial assets and think again about the intense, inescapable love that can arise between two people of completely different worlds. And I have to call it love, not just passion! I was so gripped by this play that I wound up reading it as I walked down the street on the way home, with the sun setting and my eyes aching. I kept saying to myself, “This is mad, I am tearful”, but not having the courage and honesty to say, “I am reading this because I so want this to happen to me despite the utterly terrible consequences. I want the madness.” It’s that kind of play.
So when I met Geraldine last week, I prepared my little list of questions and at the end I wrote, “What is love?” — thinking she and her play were really asking that question and she might have some kind of answer. Then, after a good 30 minutes, with me forgetting about my question list, she suddenly surprised me by making a sphere-like shape with her hands and asking, “What is love?” I felt an inner gasp. Geraldine beautifully had no big answer except that this thing love was an unavoidable, tangible thing that somehow had an existence in the very air between two people, in that sphere — it had a shape and it had to be reckoned with. One character in Amygdala knows this from the beginning and one has to find it out.
I can’t explain why but I just feel a woman had to write a play like this and that it deals with what most of us really care most about. We need so many more women playwrights giving voice to the intangibles and making them tangible, opening up the stew that is our emotional life and making us look at the degrees of things, the strengths, the ranks of feelings, the needs that can be so embarrassing and can destroy all that the world says is good and worthy in us — needs that need to be admitted and valued for their very existence. We need them to help us wallow in shame and turn it into something else quite different.
Amygdala runs from 25 November to 14 December at The Print Room and I’ll be hosting a post-show discussion on the 13th.