‘Going to the Centre’: Edward Bond's The Childrenpurchase PDF
Authors: David Allen
Edward Bond, The Children, extreme situations, radical innocence, aggro effects
Edward Bond argues that every play has a ‘centre’ – a basic problem or paradox, which ‘it is difficult for the audience to disentangle’. The centre, for Bond, is always an extreme situation. ‘Extreme’, in this context, does not necessarily mean violent. Rather, extreme situations are those in which individuals have to make critical choices. The concept of ‘centre’ has a particular meaning in Bond's work. For him, the central problem of all drama is justice. He argues that we have a basic existential need for justice (which he terms our ‘radical innocence’); but the societies we live in are unjust. This, for Bond, is the human dilemma; and in extreme situations, the antinomy is exposed. Bond goes so far as to argue that drama does not teach us about the need for justice; rather, we experience it. Faced with extreme situations, we have to make our own dialectical choice between justice and injustice, the human and the inhuman. This paper interrogates the validity of Bond's arguments. It is argued that extreme situations do not function, as he claims, to reveal some basic human need for justice. Rather, Bond's purpose is didactic. He is using a range of techniques to teach us about ‘the need of justice’. The paper focuses, in particular, on his play The Children (2001), which was written to be performed by a cast of young people, working with two adult actors. Semi-improvised, it is designed to put young people through ‘extremes of experience’, and put them in ‘fundamental, searching situations’. A production of The Children was staged by Midland Actors Theatre in 2004–2005. The paper looks at how the company worked on the play in rehearsal. It draws on extensive interviews and discussions with cast members, as well as on unpublished letters and materials by Bond.