What is it all for?
Just, what are we doing and why?
Are the questions that persistently loop themselves in my brain until one ear rings with them. While the other ear dings with parental hums of ‘law conversion’, or ‘you know what you’d be good at: teaching’.
Maybe I’m just an over-thinker (I am), or maybe the never-ending lack of funds and instability have seeped in too deep. It could be that the forms and targets and money that goes into producing theatre, good theatre, forces me to ask those questions so that I can fit whatever it is I’m making into a tiny square box made for a tick.
What is it all for, then? What does theatre do?
Turns out, after some pretty surface level investigation, that there is some sizeable discrepancy between what theatre is doing and what’s in its job description (if I were writing its job description, of course). Some theatre reminds me of Derek at the temp reception job I’m forced to do to pay the bills. White, middle class, middle management, male, who’s just got a little bit too comfortable in his privilege and started printing his own lude images off the work machines and pinching my biscuits.
An ‘essential requirement’ of theatre, surely, is to entertain. So it should be. It’s imperative, I get that. But, to me, it’s also a basic criteria, like Derek has to be in the office at 9am – surely what he does when he gets there has more dimensions of significance.
‘Be entertaining’ is selling theatre short. I am, for one, determined not to lose sight of what a beast of a form we are dealing with here. Theatre is an outlet, a therapy, a way of translating and reflecting the world we live in. In Hitler’s rise to power one of the very first things he targeted was the music halls: close them down sharpish, because that’s where the truth is. But theatre carried on, didn’t it, underground and in danger. In Trump’s rise to power he bought a large proportion of Netflix: if we start by controlling the people’s entertainment we can control their truth. I have heard first hand that under siege in Damascus they hold regular poetry corners. Under. Siege. Theatre, in all its forms, has to reflect whatever is around us, it has to reflect our situations, our world, it has to represent all of us, somewhere in some way with all the diversity and social relevance inherent within that.
It’s a strong CV theatre’s got there. Come on then theatre, live up to it. That is what it’s all for.
But the other question continued to loop ‘just what are we doing and why?’ And that’s it, isn’t it? That’s the answer in itself. It’s not theatre’s job description it’s mine; it’s ours. If we want the job. I do (sorry mum), so I’m starting with a guerrilla theatre movement called SLAMinutes. Where thirty writers from every form, every background, ethnicity, sexuality or situation get one minute each to have their say on one socio-political topic. We did Brexit in a crypt and #metoo in a strip club and now we’re doing London: Living? In Dalston. Come join the squad.