Play text vs playing text

I recently saw David Greig’s most recent play The Events performed at the Young Vic Theatre in London; a brilliant production that I’d thoroughly recommend, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to write about was the differences you can get between a physical play text and the text as performed on stage. I bought the text of Greig’s play and read it recently, not long after seeing the show, and there were several instances where I found myself recalling the performance and realising they had done it differently to what was written. A stage direction or a small scene, for example, would be in a different place or some little things may not have happened at all. The question is, is the play text the final ‘definitive’ version or the one on stage? Which was amended last?

The answer is, of course, there is no final version of a play and these discrepancies only work to highlight that. They illustrate perfectly how a play is a living thing, a text to be played with (or a playing next) and not something that remains as physically is on the page. The writer’s work is not set in stone – although I’m sure Greig was consulted on any changes suggested by the rest of the creative team – but is only part of the creative process, a structure for the work of all those whose jobs start after the writer’s has ended; a process that possibly never ends, but if you have to given it an end point it is probably with the audience.

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