A hotel with reservations.
If you don’t know who you are and you don’t know where you’re headed, you might find yourself spiralling in ever-tightening circles until you come to rest in a nondescript part of town in a crummy two-star hotel, where the service is churlish, the lift doesn’t work, the toast is burnt and the pot plants set off your allergies. But keep your expectations low, really low, and, who knows … you might be pleasantly surprised by how everything manages to work out. Such is the story of Daniel Keene’s MTC debut play Life Without Me.
Daniel Keene has been described as a dangerous playwright who works right on the moral edge. A sentiment echoed by MTC Artistic Director Simon Phillips.
"For years, in his series of short, sharp masterpieces, Daniel Keene has given a poetic voice to the marginalised and neglected. This play has a more expansive story for a larger stage, but he hasn’t abandoned society’s lost souls in his long awaited and overdue MTC debut. With warmth, sympathy and humour, Life Without Me creates a genteel purgatory out of a small rundown hotel."
Keenehas written numerous plays since 1979. He started writing in his early twenties after falling in love with the work of Samuel Beckett. He is one of the most performed Australian playwrights internationally, particularly in Europe and predominantly in France. His plays include: The Serpent’s Teeth (Citizen & Soldiers), To Whom It May Concern, All Souls, The Architect’s Walk, Cho Cho San, and Half and Half. He hasalso won a swag of awards and prizes over the years, including two Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Drama, the Wal Cherry Play of the Year Award , the New York Sumner Locke Elliott Prize and the Kenneth Myer Medallion Award for the Performing Arts.
All this yet Daniel Keene has managed to stay below the radar of Australian icon status seemingly reserved for Williamson or Lawler. Perhaps some of this separation from reverence is due to the fact that Daniel Keene is not a mainstream player in product or thought. In fact, most of his characters are tormented souls, seemingly societal misfits forsaken from the human community.
Where do these characters come form? Daniel Keene explains:
"Who are the characters in my plays? They are mostly people without privilege, who have no ‘position’, who have no power. Why do I choose to create characters like this? Because I want them to bring nothing with them, to have no biography, to be nothing to begin with. I want to create characters about whom there is little the audience can assume (of course the audience will always assume something about a character as soon as he/she appears on stage, but I can try to limit those assumptions and I can attempt to contradict them).
I want the characters in my plays to live moment by moment in front of our eyes (they can do nothing else) and to reveal what is within them (they have nothing else to reveal). In wanting this to be the case I am no different than any other playwright. I have simply chosen certain means by which to attempt to realise my desires. These means are determined by my own social, political, artistic and spiritual beliefs.
Who is not hurt? Who is not alone? Who can love without fear? Who can express their love with all the force they feel it contains? When are words alone sufficient?
I want my characters to bring their souls to the surface of their skin. I want their inner lives to be born/borne in every gesture, in every utterance. I want them to be painfully real (consider the light that spreads across a landscape just before the breaking of a storm: everything appearing as if it were soaked/suffused in light, but as though the light comes from within the things themselves): that’s the kind of painful reality I mean: painful because it seems too real, too intense, too alive, which only deepens our sense of mortality, our knowledge that we are not eternal. Yet the fact of our being temporal is where our only possibility of transcendence lies: we transcend our mortality by more fully accepting it. To live is to accept death (to speak is to accept the impossibility of expressing anything but a part of our meaning).
This is perhaps a tragic view of things. It is also perhaps old-fashioned. It requires a human being to live ‘in good faith’. It requires the acceptance of contradictions. It makes life a difficult pleasure (at best) or a meaningless difficulty (at worst).
My characters are not philosophers or artists. They are not articulate in any normal sense of the word. What is common amongst most of them is their inability to express themselves: but they are not always unable to say what they mean, what they feel, what they know. Most of them, at some point, find a way to fashion from what language is at their disposal an utterance that comes close to expressing the reality of their lives.
They are all trying to carry light in a basket, they are all trying to fit an infinity of pain into a thimble." (source: http://www.danielkeene.com.au/)
Award-winning playwright Daniel Keene makes his MTC debut with his new play Life Without Me, which was written especially for the MTC Sumner Theatre. Keene’s new play is an eccentric fable about taking up residence and trying to move on.
Season dates: 9 October – 21 November 2010 Tickets: $42.55 -$83.15 (Under 30s $30) Booking information: MTC Box Office (03) 8688 0900 or mtc.com.au