Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ask me about my penis

I went to see Grasses of a Thousand colours at the Royal Court on Saturday.

K. made me go, because otherwise I just sit there in front of my computer, hitting refresh on my sitemeter.

It's three hours long with two intervals. And make no mistake, my heart sinks when I hear I'm going to see a play that is three hours long with two intervals and that is fine. But I have this theory that certain kinds of art can only get you when you're slightly bored. Or that there are feelings that are like boredom, but are actually just tranquil and open and for cultural reasons we don't have a way of talking about them yet.

So it's by Wallace Shawn who also plays the male lead.

He's not at all handsome, in fact he's bald and bug-eyed and yet utterly riveting to look at, and has carved out a niche for himself in Hollywood, I presume by being unusually intelligent for an actor. He also appears as the teacher in Clueless and as the voice of Rex in Toy Story. Readers of the right vintage will also recognise him here:

Grasses of a Thousand colours is about sex and death. That's basically it. What's the point of going around wanting sex all the time so much it makes you and everyone around you unhappy and then dying?

It's really good, and you've probably missed your only chance to see it already.

As a writer Shawn is especially strong on place.

The play takes place in a future where people talk constantly about their genitals. This is a fun and oddly plausible idea.

The thing that makes it wonderful is that Shawn's character has this long speech about his own penis. He describes it as 'violent and threatening when erect', only it's as though talking about your penis is something people have been doing for years, and it's slightly démodé, and it's something that you have to sidle up to in conversation, the way that celebrities now have to prepare the ground slightly before they can start talking about how much they care about the environment. Like the way that a dog will slowly turn about a few times before he takes a shit.

I thought this was an interesting lesson in writing, that if you have an idea, not to just sit there, smugly with your idea. It's worth trying to have the idea beyond the idea as well.

Can I say that, without sounding like a low-rent Dave Trott with longer paragraphs?


Ben said...

I often like to think about what one's day would be like if x conversation was as common as y conversation. It makes meetings go by faster and is an interesting exercise in how we deal with conventions.

For example, imagine if (and there's no real reason why this should not be the case) one came into a meeting and spoke candidly of the difficulty of taking a shit, in the same way that you might speak of the difficulty of making a journey on London transport.

Imagine the nods of concern backed up by empathetic support stories.

Wot larks, eh, Pip?

Gordon Comstock said...

That'd make quite a good script for Imodium.

Imodium: don't be embarrassed by diarrhoea