Inner Voices and the First Coil

How difficult to write this lecture has proved to be. You would think it would be easy to talk about something you have written, but it's not so. I doubt whether any author can talk sensibly about his own work, for there is the crucial problem of detachment. If I am detached to any degree from Inner Voices, then it's because I have not seen it performed or read it for two years. Only when writing this lecture did I study it thoroughly and, in so doing, I was struck by how foreign it seemed: foreign in the sense that it didn't belong to me. Most authors feel this way about past works, but very few of them have to talk about them. I hope you understand this point about the difficulty any writer has in talking about his work, because I not only want you to remember this point, but also treat what I have to say with a degree of scepticism. Always trust the text, never the writer's justification for it. This has to be said at the outset or some might be tempted to think, 'well, this is pretty good —I'm getting it from the horse's mouth,' when, in fact, another orifice might be involved.

Because of such problems, my talk today will be wide ranging and descriptive, rather than a closely argued paper. However, in ranging widely, I hope I will be able to not so much provide answers, but to raise questions that might be of value. In my more reflective moments I've often played around with terms that express an idea of my type of theatre. I've thought of calling it Emblematic Theatre. Mnemonic Theatre or even Landscape Theatre, three terms that don't quite have the snappy definitional quality I'm hankering after. A mixture of all three would be my ideal. Let me. just for a moment, follow the path to a definition, not so much as to arrive at one (I hope I never do), but to give you an idea of my theatrical form; something that might not be obvious from a reading of the texts.

Some people have called my plays Epic Theatre, a term which is irritatingly vague, perhaps even more so than the three I've given above. In reading Brccht about his ideas on epic theatre, I'm even more convinced that the term is, even after his verbose tacklings of the topic, as easy to grasp as a globule of mercury.

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Published 1 October 1979 in Volume 9 No. 2. Subjects: Drama, Literary influences, Play writing.

Cite as: Nowra, Louis. ‘Inner Voices and the First Coil.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 1979, doi: 10.20314/als.cca72787a4.