All writers isolate themselves to keep out the noise. Or to let in as little as possible. Because an artist must after all create a detached connection with the world. In theory there is no difference between, let’s say, Michelangelo, Rothko and Warhol: they all start from that empty moment, that blank canvas, and then decide when they will let the world in. I am convinced that the longer the noise is kept out, the more vividly the artwork manifests itself. The time Michelangelo spent staring at his block of marble before he carved the pietà: that is the noiseless time. Even an artist such as Warhol, always surrounded by people, was a master at controlling that noiseless time, which he did by making the people themselves noiseless, reducing them to the role of material. That is why he came across as unworldly and autistic. But in fact it was a noble anti-noise attitude.
But in critical situations the language of intelligibility is required. And then this language has to be shouted as loudly as possible. That produces a lot of noise. This noise makes the task of the silent artist extremely delicate, timeless, but invariably united by a single concept: time. ‘Time’ was invented so that not everything happens at the same moment. Theatre is one of those places in the great cultural whole where everything can happen at the same time. Theatre means questioning time. This is the only political significance of theatre. That is where its true beauty lies. And that beauty is dark, bright, excruciatingly slow or as swift as an arrow, velvety soft or viciously hard, obscure or clear, dull or violent, bleeding in a corner or dancing on a grave, and always demanding.
Theatre is about failing in style and the spectacular nature of the pointless. About the radicality of what is entertaining. About magic. About ecstasy. The importance of ritual. The necessity of being together in a dark auditorium. The tragedy of applause. About the beauty of working together. Theatre is the oldest and most intact artistic medium to have always proven its social and political importance. Theatre is a delightfully conservative and indestructible medium. No wave of iconoclasm, dogmatic movement or manifesto has ever been able to strike at the soul of theatre. Shakespeare had to compete with popular dogfights and public torture. He watched as his mentor, Campion, had his belly cut open alive and his entrails set alight ‘so that he could behold hell’. The people were overcome by so much fun. Yet he still loved people. And working together. And theatre.