Tuesday, 13 August 2019

'The Judgement' in the Meanwood Institute

The Judgement

Conrad Beck writes:
Douglas Sandle
All seats were filled by an appreciative audience in the Victorian Meanwood Institute on Friday evening, 2 August , for this script-in-hand, hour-long two-hander by LitFest stalwart Doug Sandle. The performers were Doug, playing Adam, and Dave Robertson (he of Theatre of the Dales), who was the Interviewer.  It was a part philosophical, part psychiatrist's case study, part personal memoir which held everyone's attention throughout, and was at times quite tense.

Autobiographical influences are apparently embedded in the script, as evidenced by the many references to the Isle of Man, which is where Doug spent much of his youth. The place names give things away. Peel castle is in there, but perhaps strangely, Douglas isn't.  Without putting Doug on the couch, some of the traumatic childhood memories which his character tells the interviewer about are impossible to verify, but they were fascinating all the same.

All that stuff about spiders, for example, and the way it led to what might have been notes from an experiment by a psychologist investigating primate behaviour: a fake spider was placed in front of a chimp in a cage, who looked at it in fear for a while, then reached out and touched it curiously because it did not move. When it was clear to the chimp that it was fake, he picked it up and waved it in the faces of the other chimps, who scattered in terror. The chimp's power swelled.

David Robertson
The interviewer is a kind of St Peter figure processing applicants for citizenship in Heaven, but not entirely. He is also a patronising and unsympathetic headmaster figure. Are we at the pearly gates? Adam is not sure about the exact extent of his agnosticism, so perhaps he is speaking to himself, or perhaps not. Dave was incisive and rather predatory. Doug was absolutely convincing as Adam, portraying him as an intellectual loner who sometimes sums up his life as a series of lost opportunities and disappointments, and sometimes as a history of just about surmounted challenges. Adam, is, in the end, very upset at not coming to any final conclusions about God and the purpose of life, and that makes him sympathetic.

The play's origins - Douglas Sandle comments:

Some of the play -i.e. the climbing of the hill was a short story written I think in the mid. 60s - it was published in  a student magazine whose title I have long since forgotten. The story was then incorporated into the play -I think around the mid/late 70s, (it was typewritten and therefore before the days of PCs!) It was forgotten until a few months ago when I dug it out with three other dusty plays/stories and gave them to local actor and director David Robertson around May. 

David came back to me several weeks later to say he thought they had good potential for performances and we decided to give The Judgement a try-out at his house before as a dramatic script-in-hand reading to a small audience at the end of June. Response was very good so we arranged to present it at the Meanwood Institute last Friday 2nd of August and it played to an attentive full house and was again very well received. The general opinion was that it was a thought provoking piece of sustained drama. 

We plan to follow up the performance with another play reading from another of the ‘dusty’ scripts (about a playwright struggling to write a play but distracted by domestic ‘going-ons, which was written sometime after The Judgement, which is briefly referenced in later piece).

While several (many) years ago I wrote several political pantomimes for the local Constituency Labour Party, my creative writing efforts have mostly been poetry and a few short stories, although I did have a radio play broadcast on the former BBC’s Third Programme in 1979, (which was also broadcast by Radio New Zealand in 1982) and won a prize for a short play script in a competition held by the drama department.