The ideal and the real

Psychotherapist Ruth Barnett and playwright Diane Samuels

Photo: James Royall

Thursday 6th March, 2008 | Posted by Caroline Graty

The Connecting Conversations series is providing fascinating comparisons, not just between art and psychoanalysis, but between different approaches to creativity.

Take playwright Diane Samuels’ view of writing, for example. A good writer must transcend the need to self-express, must be a selfless conduit for creativity. ‘Your concern is your audience, not you,’ she says.

In contrast, Esther Freud, speaking at the previous Connecting Conversations event, felt that writing was almost an indulgence. ‘My reasons for writing are entirely selfish,’ she says. It is my greatest pleasure and joy to make something… Thinking about the audience doesn’t help.’

Both authors had a similar understanding of the detachment required to write, however. Samuels talked of the terrible experience of going through a divorce. Her friends had provided comfort, except for her writer friends, whose response was ‘It’s good material. Are you taking notes?’. ‘And of course, I was,’ said Samuels.

Samuels’ conversation with psychotherapist Ruth Barnett provided insights into the creation of her latest play, 3 Sisters on Hope Street, which is based on the Chekhov classic. To reflect Chekhov’s play, she wanted to transpose it to a time that had significant meaning, and chose to set it in a small Jewish community in postwar Liverpool, at the time of the creation of the State of Israel. Her comparisons between communism and Zionism, and the idea of utopian dreams versus reality sparked lively debate.

The play's themes of hope and despair were also discussed. ‘Drama lies in the relationship between despair and hope,’ said Samuels. ‘If we had a perfect world, artists would be out of business.’

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