Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Sacred Drama

The Greeks (who knew a thing or too) took their drama seriously. The production of a Tragedy was an important communal experience, and one of the goals was catharsis, that purging of the soul through the extreme emotional and intellectual stimulation which good drama provides. Perhaps a close analogy is a family of wine connoisseurs who open a rich and potent bottle and fully appreciate the subtlety and power of the winemaker’s art.

We seem to have lost this understanding, and use drama and alcohol to while away idle moments.

This, you will realise, is one of the may reasons I believe that television is dangerous. Even if (and it’s a big if) the quality of programming is high, watching television regularly can be a bit like getting drunk regularly: we lose the capacity to enjoy the quality, we need stronger and stronger fixes to give us the same kick, and we develop a craving that makes life seem empty and flat (or at worst unbearable) without the constant stimulus of our drug of choice.

Which is why those who make television programmes have constantly to push the boundaries; why things which it would have been unthinkable to screen a few decades ago are the staple even of soap operas; and why the producers of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK have become the victims of the programme’s success. Through the media, not only television but also radio, press and much of the internet, we are bombarded with drama.

The key mechanism of drama is conflict. Open any book on how to write, or any critical analysis of a dramatic work and you will find that conflict is the spring which provides the motive force for drama, whether it is the inner conflict of an individual (Hamlet) or the epic conflict between Good and Evil (Lord of the Rings). That is why all news now has to be dramatic, every interview confrontational: we cannot follow sustained argument easily - we are so addicted to drama, that unless there is conflict, we lose interest and drift away.

So, as counter-cultural parents, we limit our children’s (and our own) exposure to drama. We make a big occasion of going to the cinema (and more rarely the theatre) and we notice that we and our kids get a far bigger kick out of drama as a result.

No comments: