When I was a genuine (occasional) playwright (when plays were wrought in my atelier at a rate of more than one a decade), people, upon learning that I wrote plays, would ask, invariably, ‘What sort of plays do you write?’, to which my answer was, inevitably, a shambles. This was partly because a general lack of awareness of theatre history means I am unsure of precisely what terms like ‘naturalism’, ‘realism’ and ‘surrealism’ mean in this context; partly (I have perhaps retrospectively decided) it is not for artists to define their own work (and if they do, they risk limiting themselves within a particular definition); and partly because I just plain didn’t know.
Often my struggling answers would include the word’ intellectual’, with all the hesitant apologia that I have attempted to articulate here recently as well. But I think the word I really wanted was ‘abstract’ – not abstract in the sense of having nothing much to do with the real world, but abstract in the sense of having been abstracted from the real world in order to create a theatrical artifice. So while some playwrights will use a cast of four or five to enact a realistic family scenario, I often used four or five actors to present a town (ie a society), but there was no pretence at any characters existing beyond those visible on stage. I don’t know if that is either big or clever, but I found it interesting.