For our second installment of the Traverse Through Time lecture series, we hosted English actor, playwright, director and author Steven Berkoff. His lecture began the early days of his career and how that interacted with the Traverse Theatre. He found his unique voice for theatre by observing a defunct British theatre scene. Audiences like watching shows that were reflections of themselves; Berkoff described them as “sterile”. At the time, theatre was returning to stories that were easy to watch.
The level of acting that dwelled within the Traverse impressed Berkoff. In 1975, he debuted his first original stage play, East, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Berkoff described the play as “very rude” and “scatological”. He combated the offensive dialogue by writing the play in verse to give it a more beautiful feeling.
One of the founders of the Traverse, Richard DeMarco, gave a copy of East to Scotland’s most notorious convict Jimmy Boyle. Berkoff stated that there is dynamic in the criminal mind and their actions are acts of frustrated creativity. This idea tied into the show we saw the Traverse Theatre, The Events. David Greig’s play centers around a mass shooting and a survivor’s search for answers. Claire attempts to get inside the mind of the killer to gain peace of mind but discovers that is near impossible when you are inside the head of a psychotic person.
As an American audience member, I think I had a different perspective in light of the recent attacks of gun violence. I think the story was not as shocking to me than others because of desensitization in the American media. I do not want to make this a post about my political views but rather an invitation to think about how our current history is tied to the past and how theatre is used to tell these stories.