Alan Dilworth says Edward Bond’s works have always looked at the abuse of authority.
It's fitting that Alan Dilworth's celebration of groundbreaking British playwright Edward Bond's 50-year career is more forward-looking than retrospective. The DIY, practice-oriented festival offers a range of play readings, symposia and workshops - and to top it all off, Bond himself will be on hand to participate in the events.
Bond, whom Dilworth, co-director of Toronto's Sheep No Wool Theatre, and others call the greatest living British playwright, is perhaps best known for his shocking approach to political theatre. A production of his controversial 1965 play Saved was famously fined for depicting a street gang stoning a baby to death; in 1968 that same play became instrumental in the abolition of UK theatre censorship.
Bond has had a prolific and important career in the decades since, both as a playwright and as a philosopher of politics and theatre, and it is this side of Bond that Dilworth is most excited to share and explore in the fest's public discussions.
"The focus isn't on productions," says Dilworth bluntly. "It's on collaboration and finding new avenues and possibilities for theatre."
The festival offers seven Bond plays as readings (Chair; Bingo; Tune; The Under Room; Red, Black & Ignorant) or workshop productions (The Bundle, Have I None), with lots of opportunity for discussion and interaction.
While most of the action happens at venues around Toronto, the reading of Bingo takes place in Stratford. The fest ends with a special Bond-related edition of The Wrecking Ball political theatre cabaret on June 20.
At the heart of the programming is a trilogy of plays Bond wrote starting in 2001 that are unofficially grouped as "the Chair Plays" (Have I None, The Chair and The Under Room). This will be the first time the latter two have been read in Canada, and Dilworth thinks their themes are more relevant than ever.
"Bond's work has always investigated the abuse of authority and questions of justice," says Dilworth, who was recently nominated for a Dora Award for directing Pamela Mala Sinha's play Crash.
"The Chair Plays all take place in a dystopian future where people's humanity is dwindling. It's a world where emotion, privacy and connection are increasingly limited by technologies."
Critics often charge Bond with pessimism, but Dilworth argues that his plays are motivated by the hope that revealing problems will allow them to be addressed and finally solved.
"I find that his drama pokes me and reminds me to stay awake at a time when it's so easy to fall asleep," says Dilworth. "He reminds me that my instincts are right, that there's something going wrong here. Alongside his very raw and bleak vision of society, I find a view of the world that makes me feel less lonely.
"He really believes that drama can change the world."