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Exploring new ways of living and loving

This article is over 17 years, 2 months old
Steve Trafford, author of the acclaimed play A Cloud in Trousers: The True Story of Mayakovsky, spoke to Christian Hogsbjerg.
Issue 1924

Radical theatre is back with a vengeance, but your play takes this radicalisation a step further.

I think it has got a lot of themes that are eternal and universal, not just about that period of time in the past.

It is about the artist and the revolution, and art in a society like ours where a very different sort of change is going on.

What we artists are doing with ourselves is at the core of what happened with Mayakovsky.

So it is about how the individual voice of the individual artist is married to a sense of commitment to a revolution.

In the anti-capitalist movement today there is a sort of Futurist sloganeering. For example, at the protests in Genoa in 2001 at the G8 summit there was a banner with “You G8—Us 6 billion”.

There are people sitting around trying to dream up these slogans.

The role of artists contributing to the struggle is still as current, as powerful and as meaningful now as it was in Russia.

All art serves either the world as it is, adding to the dust that settles on all our dreams, or it serves change —one or the other, there is no neutral position.

A play about Mayakovsky seems to be an excellent way to bring alive the history of the Russian Revolution, from the hope of 1917 to the rise of Stalin.

The play is really an expression of Mayakovsky’s meaning. It is a very human-centred play about how he lived out his life in a love triangle, in a menage a trois.

Its about the inside as well as the outside world. Ultimately he discovered that the “love boat of life had crashed upon the reefs of philistinism”, of Stalinism. And he felt he hadn’t lived up to his own ideals of a non-possessive and non-jealous love.

The family is the basic unit of the capitalist economy. Everything is consumed in the hot little hell of the family room.

That feeling is current very much now as it was then—how do we change the world without changing ourselves?

Mayakovsky said, “Love is the heart of everything”. OK—Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto and analysed capitalism, but if your revolutionary urge does not spring from love, where does it spring from?

A Cloud in Trousers plays at York Theatre Royal until 23 October, then tours. It is at Southwark, London, in November. Go to uk/when and where for details.

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