A celebration of the 2000th story, in which Pravin Pilkington-Hooghiemster reposts his favorite interview. It is with the famous author, Bruce Goodman (aka Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûðmönd), with a reprint of the magazine cover in which the interview first appeared.
The Self-Effacing National Treasure
“If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna”
“The nicest you’ll get”
Monday, 16 November 2020
Seated at a wooden table on the veranda of a log cabin in the Appalachians somewhere, it’s hard to imagine that one is talking to New Zealand’s most performed playwright. And it’s most profound.
“Profound?” he smiles. “Who said that?”
“I read it somewhere,” I answer.
“Then you’re better read than I am,” he chuckles. It’s hard to believe. The walls of Bruce Goodman’s log cabin are lined with bookshelves of ancient Greek plays, the complete writings of Napoleon, the novels, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, philosophical treatises, and histories of old and modern North America, Europe, the Indian Subcontinent, Central and South America, Africa, and Oceania.
“It’s too far from here to the library”, he mutters. “Besides, they won’t give me a library card.”
I ask which of his prolific outpourings is his favorite play. “The latest one”, he says without hesitation, as if he has been asked a thousand times before. “It’s always the latest one. In this case it’s Café Play, yet to be performed. And Qatar. There’s one of them getting done in Qatar at present. They put it into Arabic.”
Goodman has an impressive list of works and awards to his name. “The first full-length play I wrote was Cloud Mother. The reviewers declared during its successful run that Goodman was an experienced playwright. I tried to announce that in fact it was my first, but no one seemed to want to listen. So they keep on getting written and performed. I’ve been experienced since the start”.
How then does it feel to be compared at various times and by various critics to Shakespeare, Goethe, Chekhov, Ibsen, Miller, Brenton? Beckett even. And Ionesco. Pinter. Ian Baird.
“It’s all in the head,” he says. “I write one scene with King Neptune’s wife wearing a rope chignon and they think it’s reminiscent of the second part of Goethe’s Faust. The truth is – I reckon – that they find it hard to categorize the plays. The best observation probably was from the person who said my scripts were all upside down and backwards. I don’t mean them to be. It’s just that I don’t know any better”.
And why no agent?
“I used an agent once. For a whole year not a single script got performed. So I took them back and pushed them myself. The following year there were over 1200 productions.”
And what’s the secret?
“Well, as Napoleon said, if you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”
The interview has ended. I’m offered a cup of tea; a proper tea, not the apricot-scent-of-Alaska that can be gotten from specialty shops.
And may we take a photo for the magazine cover?
“I got one here you can use. It’s old, but it’s the nicest you’ll get”.