David Bradby on Michel Vinaver

Wednesday 6th May 2009

Michel Vinaver’s Factors Unforeseen. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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So many British plays are simple in structure, taking the form of linear storytelling, that it always comes as a bit of a surprise when I’m exposed to other kinds of playwriting. The French, for instance. Seeing Michel Vinaver’s Factors Unforeseen at the Orange Tree Theatre last night is a case in point. As David Bradby explains, in his excellent programme note, Vinaver’s plays are written in a complex and fragmented way which deliberately makes it hard to distinguish between main plot and subplot, and which treat linear stories with a recognizable climax as if they were taboo. “Instead,” writes Bradby, “one finds an interwoven texture of events, characters and situations.” In fact, Vinaver himself makes the distinction between “les pieces-machines” (in which the story rumbles on to a classical climax) and his own “pieces-paysages” (landscapes). It’s an attractive metaphor: landscapes can be mapped in different ways, and viewed from different perspectives. So yes, the audience has to make an effort. It has to engage with the landscape, entering it, crossing it, looking at it. And isn’t that a good thing?

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