Friday, 20 October 2006
Three Uses of The Knife
"The avant-garde is to the left what jingoism is to the right. Both are a refuge in nonsense."
Three Uses of the Knife is an excellent book by writer and general theatre legend, David Mamet.
The book concerns itself with what makes good drama, why good drama matters in the modern age and why making drama is an essential component of human existence. It also turns out that the book is a very powerful piece of contemporary philosophy.
Mamet makes comparison with ancient Rome and the modern day, stating that: "when all avenues of success have been travelled and all prizes won, the final prize is the delusion of godhead" and so via the act of deification that viewer-voter-fan commits to its preferred choice of individual, we are building the replacement to religion.
He also speaks powerfully about the true purpose of drama: "to remind us that we live in an extraordinarily debauched, interesting, savage world, where things really don't come out even...the purpose of theatre, like magic, like religion (those three harness mates) is to inspire cleansing awe."
As always with Mamet I end up disagreeing with him on some fundamentals, for instance he lays out his argument for theatre never being used an instrument for social change, something I hold as a firm belief. His argument is that it relies on the writer assuming an air of moral/knowledge supremacy that is not only offensive but flawed.
I don't think I could be an actor if I didn't believe that drama and theatre were tools for change, change for the better, no matter how small the victory may be.
Oh and the three uses of the knife are: to cut the bread to give you strength to work, to shave your face to look nice for your lover and on discovering her with another, to cut out her lying heart.