More Light – a play of the past for now

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More Light by Bryony Lavery was written in 1997 for the BT Connections project to provide youth theatre plays written by writers who wrote primarily for adult professional actors and for adult audiences. If I am not mistaken More Light was commissioned in the very first batch of these plays. The story begins when a group of Emperor’s concubines are buried with the Emperor, because they have not borne him any sons. They then seek to survive in the tomb by eating him and many of the other artists and architects buried in the tomb with them. When we add to this that the play involves mutilation, discussion of abuse, murder and is richly laden with images, imagination and poetry which explore society, art and patriarchy, it seems like a tricky ask for a youth theatre to perform. When I decided to use this play for our 10 week Core Performance course in Chekhov and Ensemble techniques I thought it was challenging for adults. In our case doîng the play with a smaller number of actors rather than a twenty strong youth theatre has provided challenges but as always, also provides many strengths. For instance two of our adult actors are playing small children.

Bryony Lavery beautifully explores conventions of oriental literature and theatre to provide us with a theatrical language for this play, yet at the same time I think it is very important to widen the play from an exploration of any particular racial group. The degradation and exploitation of women in the way we see it in More Light exists within many groups, so for instance our high oriental shoes are actually modern high heels sprayed gold.

In a way, More Light has a lot of similarities with Golding’s Lord of The Flies in which a group of shipwrecked schoolboys build their society upon the public school system only to reveal that there is something feral and incredibly violent underneath their polite and rigid system. In More Light the women are locked in a tomb , resorting to violence in order to survive, but from that, creating a society and an art that is beautiful and different to the harsh Art of their Emperor. However, in order to make their society and their art, they still have to eat human flesh. This is their dilemma. In our contemporary world, it reminds me of how we frequently buy unethically produced products, made by people with poor living standards and even endangering the workers that make them .How often do we put this to the back of our minds so we can get on with our lives, feed our children , express our creativity?

Galway has actually seen a production of this play before in 1998 performed by Galway Youth Theatre , and it was performed in Nuns Island Arts Centre directed by Selena Kelly . We perform it there too. I loved the play then and resolved that at some point I would like to direct it.

‘More Light’ by Bryony Lavery plays at Nuns Island Arts Centre Galway from the 14th – 16th May telephone 091 565886. 8 pm start. The play performed by Core T.C. runs for 60 minutes.

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