Playwright Nicholas Wright in conversation with Helen Taylor Robinson
Venue: The Institute of Psychoanalysis, 112a Shirland Road, W9 2EQ
Date: Friday 4 December 2009
Playwright Nicholas Wright talked to psychoanalyst Helen Taylor Robinson about his work, including Mrs Klein, a witty and poignant study of relationships focusing on the admired yet controversial psychoanalyst Melanie Klein. They explored the taboos it raises and its themes of dominance and subjugation, loss and mourning and the boundaries between professional and personal lives.
Nicholas Wright’s work includes the plays Vincent in Brixton and The Reporter and an acclaimed adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for the National Theatre. He has also written television scripts, opera libretti and Changing Stages, a book co-authored with Richard Eyre.
Helen Taylor Robinson is a child and adult psychoanalyst in full-time private practice. She also teaches for various psychoanalytic organisations and has lectured and published widely on the subject of psychoanalysis and the arts, particularly literature, drama and film.
'I don't know what the hell I'm doing to tell you the truth'
Thursday 8th July, 2010 | Posted by Helena Rampley
Last Friday, Nicholas Wright and Helen Taylor Robinson elucidated the complex relationship between theatre and psychoanalysis. As a psychoanalyst with a strong literary background, Taylor Robinson was able to discuss the impact of this relationship on Wright's Mrs Klein. Theatrical writing, form and performance can all be seen as transgressive. Both theatre and psychoanalysis tend to privilege the unconscious over the conscious. Such primitive pushes for the flaunting of moral codes and cultivation of taboos.
Wright talked freely about his process of composition and revealed that the life of his works is much bigger than what ends up on the page. This is obviously so in the case of variances such as accent that occur during production, but also in the way it lives in Wright's mind. Both Wright and Taylor Robinson have a lasting fascination with Melanie Klein, and a sense of immediacy was obtained by discussing her work and Wright's interpretation of her within her old workplace, the Institute of Psychoanalysis. The fact that Wright's internal reality of the play is a good deal larger than the play itself gave the play a real sense of mystery. The 'nuts and bolts' of writing was, however, also addressed. The mechanics of plot and the interplay of character are logically made more complicated by including three protagonists instead of two. Such simple but telling facts are the result of the lengthy span of Wright's accomplished career.
Helen Taylor Robinson and audience questions pushed the conversation towards the notion of personal release in writing. Wright's own life shares with both Mrs Klein and Vincent in Brixton conceit of the replacement child. Clearly, personal experience and knowledge lend Wright's work the sensitivity and authenticity they display.
As ever with works that are staged, different productions flare up different aspects. What proved really intriguing were the varied interpretations offered by members of the audience, some of who were psychoanalysts. This helped shed light on the lasting interest there is in Mrs Klein; it grows, changes shape and plays with out understanding of Melanie Klein\'s personal and professional lives.