In the late 1990's everything appeared to become meta. In the theatre, people would say, "oh that was so meta" or "I am so sick of this meta shit". I love how ideas spring to the fore… like the gorgeous blooms of spring… then flowering with such a vengeance and over-bearing fragrance that only those, who stand at a distance, can tolerate the smell, the riot of colour.
So it is becoming for me with failure. To make my point a little differently, last year I got hooked on The "L" Word. I had not watched it in real time, but with the advent of Netflix, the complete history of the series rolled out before me and I followed along. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed it - for the first little while - I became increasingly bothered by the way in which "the story" started feeding on itself. (This is evident in many later season episodes of most now defunct tv series.) At a certain point, the original energy and the grand narrative attached to it, gets exhausted and it begins to turn in on itself, eat its own tail.
I am returning to school - tomorrow - to begin my studies. I am interested in what has recently been called the new and unexpected grand narrative of our time: Failure. (This was said in passing at the conference I attended) It is September 11, 2011. 10 years on. Last night I saw Decade, presented by The National Theatre. This piece was conceived to look at stories from the 10 years since the world was changed. There is little doubt that Failure is in fashion. I struggle so with fashion.
Today is a marriage. The 10 year ago flight I was on between Toronto and Vancouver and the one I am on now between London and Montreal. Happy times if you look at it through a specific lens.
So why did failure fail this week? The conference was illuminating. And - therefore - Failure failed to disappoint me. It still makes me very nervous. I still struggle with how my interest will not become wholly self-absorbed, and finally I struggle with the "energy" of the word. But in fitting terms some of my greatest successes as a theatre maker are tied to the work created under the Die In Debt company name. It is a concept as real as failure, as difficult as well. But as with the shadow side of failure, so too the contextual placement of the company's prophetic name.
Benvolio says to Romeo at the end of Act 1 Scene 1
I'll pay that doctrine or else die in debt.
There is valour in dying this way (although I stretch the smaller meaning of the line) but regardless…to die trying has nobility in it. So while the news is bleak, and systems are "failing" all around us, there remains the possibility that in the larger story, failure is simply part of the continuum and that "failure" (as indicated to me at the stimulating TAPRA Conference this week)is continually eating its own tail, and becoming something else. So in this sense not even failure is immune to failing.