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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Wish I’d Said That

We all wish we’d said certain things at certain times. This play explores what happens when we don’t: we short-change ourselves, professionally and personally. We short-circuit our long-term happiness and run the risk of forgetting what we wanted to say in the first place and why it mattered. The newest resident of the Foggadieu Retirement […]
By Hilary Simmons
December 19, 2010
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By Hilary Simmons
December 19, 2010
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We all wish we'd said certain things at certain times. This play explores what happens when we don't: we short-change ourselves, professionally and personally. We short-circuit our long-term happiness and run the risk of forgetting what we wanted to say in the first place and why it mattered.

The newest resident of the Foggadieu Retirement Village, Joe Bleakley has had a life of lost opportunities, both on stage and off stage. A "has-been" actor who was never successful enough to be recognised and hailed as a "will-be," Joe's unpublished memoirs are entitled How I Clawed and Struggled to the Middle.

Like Shakespeare's King Lear, who he quotes, Joe has "ta'en too little care" of serious matters; now he is faced with his age, his invisibility, and a hard-hearted daughter. Life's not funny anymore, but Joe has never let the truth get in the way of a good show. He is putting on a one-man show for his fellow inmates; a show that will enable him to play all the great roles he never got to perform. Motivated by ego and his compulsion to draw attention to the difference between him and the "old folks," Joe has lovingly prepared a selection of great speeches, famous quotes and stirring soliloquies.

All his life, Joe has played the showman, but the mask he has made for himself is a false and increasingly fragile one. He freely admits to being a failure both as an actor and as a father, but Joe's self-deprecation is defiant. His insistance that he fully understands the ironies and absurdities of human nature shows us how oblivious comedy can all too easily slide into tragic oblivion. Joe can't come to terms with his deepest regrets and reconcile his relationship with his daughter because as an actor he necessarily avoids — and, in his case, denies — his true feelings. Even now that the show is nearly over, he finds it virtually impossible to say what he means, never mind what he feels. 

The clear message of Wish I'd Said That again comes from King Lear: to speak what we feel, not what will please the crowd. To value dialogue, not monologue, and to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.

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