Tuesday 19 July 2011

Have we run out of stories...

...and does it matter?

Last night we went to see West Side Story at Leicester’s Curve Theatre, a modern and cavernous structure that I can’t quite decide if I like or not, but this post is not about the theatre, it’s about the show. Although it was an amateur production, it managed to pack the punch of that well-worn plot, two warring groups and two young lovers.

The story is as relevant today as it was when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in the 1590s and as relevant as when Jerome Robbins wrote West Side Story in 1957 and Mansoor Khan wrote the Bollywood version, Josh, in 2000. It’s such a powerful story that I believe it can stand any number of retellings.

But is it true that there are no new stories left to tell? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was itself influenced by the Roman myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. Lord of the Rings has elements of Greek mythology in it and dare I suggest that Harry Potter has elements of Lord of the Rings.

If we were to select a piece of literature, say from the 19th century, and pair it down to the bare bones of the story, and then if we were to rewrite that story placing it in today’s world, would it be denounced as plagiarism or welcomed as a fresh piece of writing?

And if you know the answer do please tell me... is there such a thing as a completely new story?