Just when you thought there were only so many ideas in the world, you turn around and see a film like Birdman (2014) and discover that it’s true. I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised: Hollywood is a great cauldron of ideas and they get recycled regularly, but sometimes the connection is uncanny.
You know the story: in Birdman Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton), a washed-up Hollywood actor, seeks a kind of redemption performing in a play he’s written and directed himself. My one-act play called Dig (written in 2006) is about an older actor called Douglas King who is about to make his swansong performance as King Lear. Both men are haunted by their alter egos (Birdman and Dig, respectively) and both pieces have similarities that startled me:
there’s the estranged daughter;
the flowers crowding the dressing room;
the string of broken relationships as long as your arm;
both are theatre actors (or aspire to be);
both characters hang onto an early review that inspired them to pursue acting;
both are tormented by their alter ego taunting, cajoling, reminding them of their past glories, their shortcomings and regrets;
there’s the elemental nature of acting in the theatre, the stripping away of pretence and artifice to reveal a final performance where truth is finally uncovered and lauded;
both end with the supposed “offstage” death of the main character – or does it?
The whole experience has taught me you simply have to keep writing your version of the idea, your take on it, and who knows? Maybe one day Hollywood will take up your script.
If you want to check out Dig, click here.