Sunday, 25 September 2011
Friday, 23 September 2011
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Last night I watched Edward II by Christopher Marlowe at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. I first saw the play in 1996 at the Bolton Octagon, when the production was given an optimistic ending, suggesting a spiritual reunion of the lovers after death: Gaveston as murderer, holding Edward in his arms beneath a cascade of rose petals. On reflection that ending seems out of sympathy with the play's pessimism. It romanticises Edward’s love for Gaveston, portraying it as some Platonic ideal, rather than an expression of hubris and defiance.
Toby Frow, director of last night’s production, provides a more faithful ending that also uses the same actor to play Gaveston and the murderer Lightborn (the excellent Sam Collings). It reminds us of Gaveston’s role in Edward's destruction and helps to provide the play with its sense of tragedy.
The production is excellent. It is set in the 1950s and begins in a rather louche club with a jazz band playing. The movement of furniture between scenes is sufficient to anchor a sense of changing time and place. Sometimes the place we are in is the disintegrating mind of the defeated King. In the final scenes the helpless Edward remains visible in his dungeon whilst we return to the Court to hear the plots of Queen Isabella and Mortimer.
The historical Edward II was emotionally deprived and bullied by his warrior father. When Edward’s affection for Gaveston, a childhood friend, became too intense, Edward’s father sent Gaveston into exile. Imagine how that must have burned in the young man’s heart? Chris New brilliantly plays the King as an emotionally undeveloped and slightly camp young man. In Act One Edward is prone to adolescent anger and flights of haughty rhetoric, but there is innocence there too, beautifully captured by New. The innocence turns to murderous wrath as the Lords opposition to Gaveston unleashes unresolved Oedipal rage that is never quenched.
Marlowe's play is a bleak portrait of human nature: each character is corrupted by the power they seek. Edmund's expresses his love for Gaveston but soon chooses another favourite once Gaveston is dead. It is a symbol of defiance that Edmund needs not a man to love. Edward’s love for Gaveston is narcissistic and reckless. It provokes others to take away his Kingdom so he can have his revenge. In the end he is undone and we are left feeling pity for a man brought down not by love but by hubris.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Saturday, 10 September 2011
Thursday, 8 September 2011
I think it's true to say that out of all the clients I have worked with, those in training as psychotherapists have initially proved the most trying. Not all of them. There have been notable exceptions where the trainee’s excited absorption in the theory and practice of psychotherapy has been duly match my devotion to an intrepid exploration of themselves from the start. One might expect that this would always be the case, but others have arrived reluctantly, even resentfully, seeing their attendance immediately as a course requirement rather than an opportunity for self-discovery and transformation. They see little, if anything, in need of discovering or transforming. This in itself is, of course, a self delusional problem, much in need of discovery and transformation. While I don't quite put it like that, I do suggest they go away and think about how they might want to use our time together therapeutically.
From ‘Not Playing it by the Book’ by Phil Lapworth in Lapworth, P. (2011) Tales from the Therapy Room: Shrink Wrapped, London, Sage
When I began my diploma in counselling thirteen years ago there was a requirement for twenty hours of personal therapy. In the end I had 50 hours and I've been back since, with different therapists, from different traditions, using different models of therapy. I see this as part of my personal and professional development, an investment in me as a therapist, committed to connecting with others and addressing those parts of me that unconsciously sabotage working at relational depth.
There is, of course, an argument which suggests trainee counsellors ought not to be forced to have personal therapy, that to make someone attend counselling contradicts the counselling ethos of promoting individual choice and autonomy. I see the point, but those same courses see nothing wrong with setting and assessing assignments, and the student who asserts their autonomy by not handing in their assignments doesn’t pass the course. Maybe that isn’t an appropriate comparison; I am not much good at rhetoric, despite a degree in Scholastic Philosophy, so let me instead promote the merits of personal counselling for trainees with a little list:
Personal therapy can promote self-awareness and reflexivity
It enables trainees to experience what it feels like for clients when they come for help
It's an opportunity to work on personal issues in a safe space. It provides a confidential place to take personal issues that may result from reflective practice and supervision
It’s much better to work on distressing experiences in personal counselling than to have them activated by a distressed client during a counselling session
Working with an experienced therapist provides an opportunity to model how they work and to experience a therapeutic relationship. It is also an opportunity to experience different approaches to therapy
I’d be interested to hear arguments against personal therapy for trainees, especially from those providing personal therapy. I think I will need some convincing before I stop advocating personal counselling for trainees. And if Liz Johnson my first therapist ever reads this – thanks for what you did Liz and how you did it!