Long Division by P. Dickinson; The Annex; 2017, April 29th
‘Long Division’ by Peter Dickinson in Pi Theatre’s rendition appears as unconventional stage attempt to comment on profound (therefore conventional) theatrical and intellectual theme: what is a reason and purpose, hopefully justification, for an absurd that life is? – in context of vain, pointless, random often, therefore horrifying, cruelty that constitutes for life’s large slice, recently so overexposed by the media. Playwright and Pi’s creative team offer a polyphonic variation on the subject; resorting to theatre means they orchestrate stage equivalent of a fugue: a dominant theme entwined with an array of motives and voices that comment, counter-point and relate to a dominant tune. Which is, or seems to be – a question, or rather a supplication – timelessly repeated by artists and philosophers: let there be some point, some rigor, some idea, a mechanism, a structure, that justifies all this.
In his take of the above P. Dickson seems to blow three major horns: 1. a narrative structure: a story, whether factual or fictional irrelevant, of a school shooting, that clearly locates stage action and subject matter in a contemporary present; 2. a coincidence: as life (and drama) device that largely rules lives of humans (and play’s characters), often bringing people at wrong times, at wrong places; 3. and an idea or symbol that is pure and strong (math): and counter-balances, perhaps arbitrary, a chaos of two former. Whether simultaneous sound of these three voices is justified and harmonious, remains P. Dickinson play’s puzzle and mystery. As well as presumption, permissible in light of play’s structure and logic, that coincidence (chaos) is in fact a necessity, lurking in infinity of numbers’ relations and the scale. Unfortunately, that has never been confirmed so far and none mathematical model, statistic nor probabilistic, has ever allowed to avoid or predict horrifying consequences of human desires, anxiety or prejudice.
So where P. Dickinson and Pi Theatre are taking all this? A question with no direct answer. Perhaps a feint cue lies there in a brief conversation, toward almost end of play, when the math teacher, shot dead during school carnage, talks to the perpetrator’s mother, suddenly bringing into the conversation a category of beauty – as teacher somehow admires, despite loosing own life, his former pupil’s ultimate reaction to bulling, as well as, much earlier, his bright, though difficult and isolated mind. Would that be – the beauty – another, unexposed, sub-superficial tune in playwright’s composition? A key to play’s mindset, although beyond simple distinction between evil and good? Great contemporary composer Karlheinz Stockhausen tagged 9/11 attacks in New York as: ‘the biggest work of art there has ever been”. Would ‘Long Division’s’ author be similarly… calm? – in the face of cruelty of absurd?