'One sentence can carry more meaning than a million pictures'
Playwright Alex Broun's picks that highlight the human condition
What are you reading right now?
Currently I'm re-reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as we are producing that later in the year. I'm also reading lots of scripts for Short+Sweet Dubai, the 10-minute play festival that opens the last weekend of January at The Junction Theatre in Al Quoz. Many of these are by local playwrights, so it's exciting to read new work. I'm also working my way through Philip Ziegler's biography of Laurence Olivier, which is fascinating. An extraordinary actor and an amazing life.
What the books that changed your life and shaped your outlook?
1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley had a profound effect on me when I was young. Such vivid worlds created by both authors - terrifying and strangely familiar at the same time. 1984 has so many concepts which are now commonplace in today's world. Orwell really could see the future. When I became interested in writing for the stage, Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams really stayed with me. The emotional intensity and atmosphere of these works has been deeply inspiring. I've also enjoyed Milan Kundera's books.
Which titles or authors can you pick up and read any time?
Orwell , I've re-read 1984 many times; Oscar Wilde, any of his plays; Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, two other great writers for the stage. Ibsen was the consummate craftsman while Strindberg continually skirted on the edge of mad-ness, making his plays thrilling and distur-bing at the same time as they somehow cling to a semblance of structure and form. just. Dirk Bogarde's memoir Backcloth, a brilliant book on acting and an actor's life.
What are the books you would love to pass on to a young person to read and treasure?
1984 would have to be one of those, and the complete works of Shakespeare. Really, Bill said it all and in such beautiful poetry. No wonder he's quoted a million times around the world every day. No one said it better - before or since. Also, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which is a perfect distillation of the human condition. A young reader may not grasp all the meaning of the play on a first read, but it is a story they can return to again and again, illuminating more each time they read it.
Why are books relevant today?
It doesn't matter how much we are bomb-arded by images and videos in our byte-obsessed world - words will remain the primary form of communication. Though a picture may be worth a thousand words, one true sentence can carry more meaning than a million pictures. As Tom Stoppard says in his play The Real Thing: "I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead." Says it all really. - As told to staff reporter