Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Agent

Martin Wagner's new stage play The Agent is about writing, publishing, and (obviously) the business of being a literary agent. First seen in London in the spring, the play has now transferred to Trafalgar Studio 2, a venue which, as its name suggests, is located just off Trafalgar Square.

I haven't seen the current production, but I have read the script. It's published by Pinter and Martin.

For anyone with any experience of publishing, the play script is a slightly painful read, being based all too clearly (one suspects) on the author's personal and far more painful experiences. However, those unfamiliar with today's wonderful world of bestsellers might well find it an eye-opener.

The play is a two-hander, featuring a not very successful writer and an agent who is an archetypal wheeler-dealer. And that's almost all I can sensibly tell you without revealing too much.

One thing I can add is that the plot hinges around some incriminating photographs. This is not remotely surprising to me. Sin, I have decided, must be rife within the book world, because I long since came to the conclusion that the existence of incriminating photographs is the only possible explanation for quite a number of publishing decisions.

Reviews of The Agent have not been universally favourable, but Benedict Nightingale in the Times seems to have liked it. Other reviews appear in The Stage and the Financial Times. All these reviews, however, tell you more than you might wish to know if you're going to see the play.

One final note. There have, in the history of the commercial theatre, been a fair number of successful two-handers. Two for the See-Saw (later filmed with Mitchum and McLaine) was one; Albee's The Zoo Story was another; and more recently we have had An Hour and a Half Late.

However, my favourite drama theorist, Professor Grebanier, argues that, from a structural and theoretical point of view, two-handers are never successful. It's all to do with climaxes, you see. Two people can, it seems, achieve a perfectly satisfactory climax in sexual terms, but not in dramatic terms.

For a two-hander to work, Grebanier argues, there's has to be, as he puts it, something which 'is used with the catalytic force of a third personality'.

In Two for the See-Saw that something is the telephone. And so it is in The Agent, wherein we have a publisher person on the other end of the phone and playing a vital role in the proceedings. (I wonder if he gets paid the Equity rate?)

Just in case you're interested, Grebanier argues that in The Zoo Story it's the park bench which at first assumes the importance of a third personality; and a bit later on it's the knife.

As for the more recent An Hour and a Half Late, the third personality in that is, at least according to my own dazzling powers of theatrical analysis... Er, lessee now. Sure I'll think of it in a minute.

Ah! The clock. Or that's my story, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Always something useful, intelligent and knowledgable here. Thanks for the lesson. I feel like the Tin Man in Oz..."if I only had a brain..." tralala...

Martin Wagner said...

The publisher at the other end of the phone is none other than real-life Alan Samson of Weidenfeld & Nicolson. And no, he didn't get paid.

Thomas said...

Chekhov's 'the Bear' is -- if I've understood the term correctly -- an excellent two hander, albeit a jest in one act at that. A women in mourning is wound up by a mysoginist, and they argue before eventually getting it on. It's comic farce at its best.

Thomas said...

Actually, David Renwick attempted a total of four two handed episodes, featuring only Margaret and victor, in One foot in the Grave. It was a totally brilliant series, but personally I never felt these two handers ever worked. Except of course in the special case that a third party was introduced half way through: Mrs Warbois with a bag of cheese and onion crisps!

Also the Red Dwarf episode Marooned, featuring just Lister and Rimmer worked really well.

Thomas said...

And finally

'Two people can, it seems, achieve a perfectly satisfactory climax in sexual terms...'

not sure about that -- don't you need a third party here as well?

gih said...

sometimes, I acted as an Agent too.