Thursday, August 03, 2006

Life stories

I went to see Death (and Love) in Gaza tonight. It's a play, written by New Zealander Paul Maunder, based on the life and writing of Rachel Corrie the young American activist who got run over by a bulldozer in Israel.

It didn't work for me as a play, and it didn't work for me politically, because it didn't work as a play. A rather major problem was the '(and love)' part - because I'm damn picky about love stories that interest me.*

Part of the problem was that the play had started from the e-mails she'd written home. E-mails are not written to be spoken, and e-mails that you write to your parents are not going to necessarily convey the interesting bits of your life.** The play didn't give us an idea of who these people were, beyond their political statements (which was also part of my fundamental political objection to the play - which was it was rather short of palestinian characters).

I think political plays need to start with the characters. I don't just mean that because all plays should start with the characters. I think it's extra important, that if you are trying to make a point about the way the world works, that you do it with people who feel real and interesting. I think political narratives work best when they're not actually about politics - where the narrative comes from somewhere else - I guess it's a version of show not tell.

But this is related to another belief I have - I think our politics has to start from people - actual people and the lives they live in all their messy complicatedness. I do believe that you could tell any woman's life story as a feminist story, any person's life-story as a story about capitalism. I think the lives of my grandparents and great-grandparents are all political stories.

The play I saw tonight portrayed the workers in the International Solidarity Movement, and the palestinian people as noble. I'm sure they were and are. But humanity is so much more important to me than nobility, both in politics and in stories.

*If I'm going to be on the side of any love story I want to know what they love about each other, and I want those qualities to be things that they value about themselves. I don't need it spelled out - to me that can be shown just by two people laughing together - but I need to have a reason to believe these people should be together, a reason to believe they're good together. I have no problem watching love stories where I don't like the couple, but only if the narrative still works.

** It occured to me if someone was going to write a play based on my writing they'd base it on this blog - which kind of makes the point. My writing isn't who I am. Last night I cried in the bath - much earlier in the day a friend said something that resonated with my experience. I could make an excellent political point out of this - it'd make a great blog post. But I'm not going to write about it because it's raw and real.

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