“A good play is a perfect democratic being”
– Steve Waters
The 23rd October performance of ‘Hotbed Festival Double-Bill’ featured a post-show question and answer session with ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ writer Steve Waters, hosted by Timberlake Wertenbaker. The audience, including those on Twitter, were invited to ask Steve questions. Here is a selection of those and their responses:
Q: Timberlake Wertenbaker: ‘Why Can’t We Live Together struck me as quite different from other plays. Did you start with form or content, and what led to what?’
A: Steve Waters: ‘The play emerged in Cambridge [at Hotbed Festival 2013 – a festival made up of short plays or one-acts] and that context allows you to be more playful. It made me want to write briefly, succinctly and personally. I was fascinated by the idea of telling a long, novelistic story in a compact form’
Q: Timberlake: ‘In your plays you withhold judgement of you characters. You don’t present villains or heroes. Was this a conscious decision?
A: Steve: ‘I didn’t wilfully make those thoughts or judgements. The more you look at something, the more difficult judgement becomes. In writing, it’s really not your task [to judge]. But of course structure is a judgement. A good play is a perfect democratic being’.
Q: Audience member: ‘There are echoes of the play that reminded me of Pinter’s The Betrayal. This play seemed to remove all the white noise’.
A: Steve said that the play presents a fascinating acting task – taking something very full-on in a scene, then dropping it and having to do something completely contradictory in the next. Some scenes, such as one where the characters discuss playtime, are all about context – not dissimilar from Pinter in The Betrayal. ‘He [Pinter] takes the corniest story ever and makes it haunting and philosophical’
Q: Craig Baxter (writer of Somniloquy, the second piece of the evening) tweeted in with a question: ‘For a play with such a concentration of really funny lines, I found ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ very upsetting (in a good way!). Was I meant to?’
A: Steve: ‘Both Mark and Jasmine are very funny actors. The humour [in the play] is about recognition, and there are some things that you cannot deny have a correspondence with your own life.’
He went on to discuss how the most embarrassing or crass moments of people’s life are seen on stage; removing the facade of normal life. He concluded that you can’t help but like someone who makes you laugh, and this butters us up for more heartbreak!
Timberlake added that it is more of a question of withholding judgement. It is a painful play, but a funny one too.
Actor Mark Oosterveen commented on how the script doesn’t have any waffle. ‘Everything seems to start and end in the middle of a scene’. He pointed out that in some places in the script, it is clear what is being said but the context and subtext have a life of their own – ‘at times it can be difficult not to overplay the subtext’.
Actor Jasmine Hyde followed on from this, verifying that the writing feels very natural. ‘It’s very easy to speak Steve’s writing. It sits very easily in the mouth’.
Steve Water’s play ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ is part of the Hotbed Festival Double-Bill, showing at Theatre503 until the 9th November. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 020 7978 7040.