What would you do if you had a house full of actors, all of them employed full time, none of them able to get in front of an audience for an indefinite period of time? As lockdown hit, that was the situation facing Mattias Andersson when he’d just landed the job as head of Dramaten; Swedens most prestigious theatre scene.
An interesting problem, both from a managerial and an artistic point of view.
The road forward began to be staked out when Andersson posed a pertinent question: what would you do with your time, if all you ever had was one minute on stage?
I went to see the resulting show the other day and found it to be quite brilliant. The simplicity of the question that each actor had to find a personal answer to, caused high levels of anxiety. And rightly so; isn’t it absurd to think you can say *anything* in sixty seconds? And in a sense even more so if you’re an actor at the pinnacle of your career!
I mean, how would you have spent your only minute?!
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that question. The first impulse of course, would be to use the time saying something. Speaking at a comfortable rate would give me a budget of just over a hundred words.
That’s like, nothing!
I mean sure, pitching a startup is entirely possible in a hundred words. But that’s not what I’d want to do, I’d want to say something that mattered.
What about other modes of communication? As it turns out, some of the more memorable scenes of the show didn’t rely on words at all. Instead, there was the unexpected slapstick, and the deranged dance that made everyone laugh. There was also the young guy with friends killed in gangland shootings, who spent his minute in silence.
And that silent minute was what really got me thinking.
Because forget about the being-on-stage bit; the minute that would really matter would be the last one I had with a loved one. And I know for certain then that all would have been said and done, whether it’d be me on that deathbed, or I’d be the one sitting next to it.
In that ultimate minute, I imagine the floodgates of all senses to be wide open. Every breath, touch and heartbeat registering like a quiver in the earth, each glance pregnant with meaning. In that ultimate minute, saying nothing wouldn’t mean giving up precious time, it would mean savouring it.