I think every playwright has at least once experienced the sensation of wanting to write a play “as good as such-and-such a play, only different.”
Call it inspiration, perhaps; you read something you love, and it triggers a kind of ache to have written the play yourself, an ache you feel can only be replaced by creating a replacement play of some sort, or a similar play, something that perhaps continues the conversation in some way. You want to say “Yes, I get it, I hear that, and I have more to say.” But the heightened perfection of the play you’ve been inspired by also somehow gets in the way: you can’t do any better, because it’s been done perfectly already.
More importantly, you can’t move the play far enough out of your mind to make room for your own words. A mere thought about the play in question brings it directly to the forefront of your imagination, where it plays out in big loud ways, simultaneously re-inspiring you and taunting you: the play you wish you’d made and now can’t make, but which you nonetheless love with great devotion.
For me, lately, that play is Sarah Kane’s BLASTED.
It’s not the story I’m so caught up by, though that’s blindingly intense. It’s the… well, it’s hard to put into words, that’s what it is. I almost want to call it Kane’s genre. Her work is as much poetry as it is drama; she moves with lyrical precision and grace through some genuinely torturous territory.
I want the play I’m working onâ€”in my mind, because for the life of me I can’t begin it because of her — to be that brilliant.
What plays or playwrights are like that for you?