AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR PHILLIP BREEN

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AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR PHILLIP BREEN



Written by Don't Panic
29 Friday 29th August 2014

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Simplistic solutions to complex social problems are always dangerous. But I think the Western gets a bad reputation as "simplistic" with simple morality and what not. They're often not, and they're fictions. Which are always less complex than reality. I think they can be used for bad ends by politicians, like Shakespeare and Wagner have. 

I slightly bridle at the implication that plays or films "should" be about "good" things and not be about "bad" things. I get bored with the idea that there are "good" stories to tell and "bad" ones.

On the other hand, do you think there's an innocence behind the genre that's since been lost?

No. I think it’s a mistake to assume an innocence or kind of artistic primitivism to the "golden period" of the Western. I think the good ones have always wrestled with really knotty social and political problems. You have to judge a film within its political context.

Take Back to the Future. It works as a great piece of entertainment, but it's also a rather wonderful and sly critique of this idea of an innocent halcyon day of American social life. The dad is a peeping tom, the mom is a young lush, Mayor Goldie Wilson is depicted as a patronised kitchen hand in a diner. 

As the genre has developed the implied politics of (say) High Noon, have come more front and center in a film like (say) Django Unchained. 

But I don't think there was ever an innocence. That's just nostalgia.

What other plays or films do you think have been directly influenced by western tropes.

The Western is part of a tradition of storytelling which stretches back to the Greeks. Like with the poetic dramatists that coalesced around Southwark in the late 16th century, the dominant mode, the five act verse play, was a whetstone on which a wide variety of poetic talent was sharpened. 

I don't think the "Western" is a pure thing in that way. But I guess most mainstream cinema owes a debt to the Western as so many of its great practitioners cut their teeth on the Western. Bond, the Bourne Films, the Gangster Genre I guess.

What can audiences expect from the play? 

I hope audiences experience something completely unique. Something that's very funny, odd, quite weird in places, something that doesn't offer any easy analysis. A big something that's stirring and human and true. 

I hope I haven't made it sound like "art" it isn't. It's really, really funny. And one heck of a ride!

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