A ‘Bondian’ approach to Drama*
Bond’s drama enables us to create ‘self’ through making values - humanness - by reconnecting reason with imagination in a Drama Event or DE. Our post-modern culture has disconnected the rational and the imaginative, the social from the personal, and thus destroyed the human.
The role of the imagination
in common perception the imaginary is the opposite of the real, or linked with the unreal. Bondian imagination is found in the real, ‘desires reality’, is linked with the real, is in itself real. Bondian imagination is not so much a matter of inventing something new as of (paradoxically) understanding what already exists. It is a way of gaining knowledge, extending sensory perception, and complementing reason, allowing us to apprehend and interpret, and therefore ‘create’ the outside world. And, as ‘we act with humanity when our imagination recognises imagination in others’ and as ‘we must imagine each other’, it is fundamentally altruistic and is therefore the primordial source of The Human.
The imagination is born out of the neonate’s (baby’s) need to understand the world.
It is connected with the imperative for justice and our radical innocence.
In the imagination we ask ‘Why is he doing that?’ we ask, and in doing it we have to imagine that we were doing it to see what it would feel like. We put our selves in the shoes of the dying soldier: the audience work here is very close to the actor’s work.
We don’t experience second hand in the DE but first hand, we don’t echo the characters’ emotions, we have to generate our own emotional response by entering into the site.
All drama must have a site. There are many sites but Bond identifies 4 key inter-connected/interpenetrating aspects of the sites (See Modern Drama – The Hidden Plot)
A: The social sites – the culture which is self evident to the audience
B: The specific sites of the drama, the story, which incorporate site A.
C: The means by which sites A and B are conveyed to the audience as site – primarily through the images, action and objects.
D: The audience as a site of the imagination. A, B and C must be conveyed to this site. D is drama's specific site because it contains all the other sites and their interrelations. Drama's identity comes for meeting the needs of D. D - This is the ‘self’ site.
We access Site D through DE. The audience experiences Accident Time, we create a gap for the audience in which the Invisible Object is revealed.
The Drama Event
To create a D.E., one must focus on a key image, action or situation, an extreme or crisis point, and show it in such a way that it can be examined both in its own right, and in relation to the rest of the drama. The audience is helped to analyse not just the mechanics and significance of the moment, but also the causes and implications of the short-term “event” on the drama as a whole. In other words it helps reveal the full significance of the moment, to show what makes it a significant ‘event.’ It is all about opening up, not the story told, but the analysis of this story, something which Bond, many times before has said is essential when ‘dramatising.’
It could be argued that Bond’s most important dramatic device relates to cathecting the objects. The objects are SITUATED. They have a geography that is both physical and emotional. We need to act the geography of the situation and then the objects become psychosocial. They are what Bond calls a modern form of soliloquy: “they combine both the psychology of the owner or user of the object - but also the social situation.”
Cathexis occurs when an object is wrenched from it ideologised meaning and charged with a different energy and thus new values in the DE. In the first scene of Eleven Vests (Bond 1997) for example we encounter a book (Bond doesn’t specify what kind of Book – that is a decision for the production), which has been slashed by a knife. In the next scene a knife has been used to slash a school jacket/blazer – the school badge has been cut out. The Head Teacher accuses a Student. In the next scene the Student uses a knife to kill the Head Teacher. In the fourth the Student is trained to kill with a bayonet in the army. In the final scene the student commits a war crime using the bayonet to kill an enemy who has already surrendered. We follow the logic of the cutting of the book through the play. Both ‘book’ and ‘knife’ acquire new value through the action of the play. This arises in the tension between the received values (use values – how it is used) and its ideological values (how it should be used) ascribed to the book and the knife in everyday life. The site of the imagination (D) is activated by the objects in action (C) in the situation (B) in order to place the self in society (D in A) and society in the self (A in D) and create value. Furthermore the book and the knife are present in the bayonet that is used to commit the atrocity and in the wound it makes at the end of the play – the grammar of the objects has changed and the new values invested in the objects/action in the DE articulate a new story; the story of the audience, which is a story of self in society. This is the logic of the imagination at work.
When we DE a drama we create a gap, which interrupts the story, by entering Accident Time, and doing so get behind the ideology which proscribes meaning and reveal the invisible object, by which mean the objective meaning of what is happening – whether the ‘character’ knows it or not.
ACCIDENT TIME (AT)
A biological effect. In emergencies such as a car crash the brain is flooded with chemicals as concentration increases. The effect is the apparent slowing down of time. More is seen and more actions become possible. Extreme drama creates this effect. The accident is not physical, it is a crisis in existential meanings. It exposes contradictions we accept in daily life in order to survive. The contradictions are historical limitations. For instance, slavery was necessary in the ancient world (it led to the glory that was Greece). When contradictions lose their historical purpose they are destructive, but they have become deeply interwoven into daily life. They are unjust and provoke injustice and are maintained through violence. The extreme reveals the contradictions in the form of paradoxes. This creates an "accident in the self" just as a car accident occurs in the street. In the accident we must choose. The crises prevent withdrawal. If we close our eyes - literally or metaphorically - we still suffer the consequence. A choice must be made in the paradox. Refusal to choose is itself a choice with consequences. But in the deep creativity of human beings it is natural to want to choose. The choice we make redefines our self, we choose what we are. This is the reality of drama.
Note AT is not artificial slow-motion. The Audience not the actor are in AT. They enter it through the intensity of concentration created by what passes on the stage. Perhaps all creativity occurs in AT. If so, the audience's and the actor's AT are different. AT cannot be aesthetically faked.
Bond writes of the gap as “the space between the material world and the self.” Its essential nature is at once individual (psychological and ethical) and collective (indeed communal). Above all, it is an essentially ontological dimension, made up of our ‘being’: we are the gap. And, just as it can be contaminated or corrupted, so the gap has the authority to produce Value and Meaning, to be the site of Humanness.
Finally, a stage, when empty, is not simply a theatrical space - it reproduces and symbolises the gap. It is a ‘literal representation’, a ‘replica’, of the ontological gap at the heart of the self and the world – that’s to say a ‘void’ already inhabited by invisible presences, which are waiting to become creative through presenting action.
IO (Invisible Object)
Fundamental to DE. The difference is between acting and enactment. The actor finds the IO in the extreme of the situation. The site is social but the self must express it individually. The IO is the actor-and-character in the specific situation. More than one actor may create the IO. It is called Object because it objectifies the situation on the site: it is its meaning. Before the IO is enacted it is hidden in ideology and convention. The actor enacts the meaning and makes it visible. It may be action, vocal, brief or ongoing - anything may be used. It relates to the centre. Only the actor may find the IO and make it visible. The IO involves the logic of imagination and the logic of humanness.
Examples In Chair Billy's appearances after he leaves the house is a series of IOs. In
Saved Len's final poses on the chair are also IO. In Have I None Sara's IOs are drawn to their extreme expression when she poisons herself and leaves the room.
For further reading:
Edward Bond and the Dramatic Child – Ed D. Davis. Trentham Books 2005
Introduction to Saved, student edition – D Davis, Methuen Books 2009.
* Bond’s concept of drama incorporates theatre and performance but distinguishes between ‘effect’ and ‘event’. Bond asserts that contemporary theatre relies on effect rather than drama event.
Chris Cooper November 2011