Last night I learned a great deal that I wasn’t expecting to – both about war and about writing.
Last night I went to Ten at the Royal Court Theatre, a one-off made up of ten different performances each of ten minutes to celebrate (commemorate? commiserate?) the ten year anniversary of the start of war in Iraq for Stop The War. Everyone who’s everyone was there (almost – well, I was there). Even Harold Pinter, via a TV screen, back from the dead.
There were short plays, stand up routines and musical sets, and the whole was inspired and produced by playwright Jan Woolf.
Many of the pieces were good, including some brutal antiwar montages by Kennard Phillipps and a sharp little playlet written by Woolf herself, with Timothy West and Jane Lapotaire as retired Labour MPs undergoing purgatory in a futuristic old age home.
Many pieces were also thought-provoking, but the one that stood out for me was a simple English folk song sung by Sally Davies with updated lyrics by “a certain Robert Zimmerman”.
Pinter huffed and puffed about guns and bombs but Dylan’s lyrics said more in three minutes about war, greed and guilt than a hundred two hour plays. Unassuming and clear.
What did I learn? I learned that the great writers and artists like Dylan work hard to appear not to be trying hard. That simplicity and clarity is the goal. That you can speak about things that matter and speak from the heart. And that if you see injustice, you have a duty to speak out as best you can.
And that the fight goes on.