Love, Genius and a Walk is a play that shows how art and marriage can make odd bedfellows. Gustav Mahler, world-renowned composer and conductor, wants his wife to be his muse, but Alma desires the closeness that he cannot give, he thinks, in order to get his work done. Mahler turns to the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for guidance, and both men find that neither of them may be that clued up about women. At the same time, a modern couple's life mirrors Alma and Mahler's, except here she is the artist who works all the time, and their conundrum is a commercially-oriented husband whose thoughts on art can be a touch confounding.
The two stories twist and turn through the quagmires of love and genius, much of it to the sweeping music of Mahler. Love, Genius and a Walk toured the UK in 2019, and was nominated for 6 prizes, including Best Play, at the Midtown Festival in New York. It now returns to London in a new creative production by director Leah Townley.
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
Love, Genius and a Walk was nominated for 6 prizes, including best play, at the Midtown International Festival in New York. Playwright Gay Walley is the author of Strings Attached, which was a finalist for the Pirates Alley/Faulkner Award, the Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award, and the Paris Book Festival Award. The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable was a finalist for the Paris Book Festival Award, and a film based on the book, The Unattainable Story, starring Harry Hamlin.
A message from
Love, Genius and Walk came about when the Gustav Mahler Society of New York commissioned me, based on seeing my love of music in my other writing, to write a play for Mahler’s 100th anniversary. Their stipulations were that I had to stick to the truth, as much as is known, and the play had to revolve around the one meeting between Freud and Mahler. At the time, I did not have a real knowledge of Mahler’s music. All I had was the hubris to think, “Do I dare to create the words of two geniuses?” Then I thought, “Should be fun. Be prepared to fail.”
I asked the President of the Mahler Society, “Where would you recommend I begin researching?” He said, “Listen to every symphony first.” I have rarely heard such good advice in my life. If you want to know the artist, know the work. I did as he said and it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. All this passion and depth and creativity. I fell in love. I did not want to write a biopic, thinking this would be boring to an audience, so I mixed it up a bit with a contemporary artist obsessed with her (!) work and created an almost chamber piece where past and present play against each other.
All my characters, in both time frames, have marital difficulties, as did Mahler -- big time. I became interested in the challenges for artists when coupled. (It is known that Mahler met Freud over the difficulties with his wife.) I saw that artists need distance to create, and will inadvertently create that distance, but at the same time artists need the unwavering support and love of a partner. There’s the rub. This is the theme of the play – how we all – artist and non artist -- need closeness but sabotage it.
There was one other facet of the play that was a joy for me and unforeseen till I began writing. My mother was Viennese. Her mother was a pianist, and her husband a violinist. They must have, when young, heard about or heard Mahler. I found, when writing, I was able to channel that particular way the Viennese have of being serious when joking or joking when serious. For me, this was an unexpected pleasure in writing the play. The play is textured, layered (like music) and, it is my wish, that the audience goes to some new places as you watch.