Theatre and Democracy
Theatre and democracy have a shared history. Beginning together in the Greek city state, they have grown, developed and diminished side by side, not always progressing at the same pace and in total accord but as parallel paths that have met and parted over several thousand years.
At the present time, democracy seems to be in a substantially weaker state than theatre. With the blossoming of post factual politics, debate and discussion, listening, persuading, deliberation have been replaced by a hyper inflation of fantastical narratives of fear and paranoia, a twenty four hour news cycle of lies.
How to make theatre in this culture of fearful illusion, where we have spun beyond the society of the spectacle into the society of the suicidal delusion?
Isn’t the theatre just another way to add to the noise, the buzz of panic, the escalation of narratives?
Wouldn’t it be better to be still and silent? Because stillness and silence are much needed in the world right now.
Stillness and silence could and maybe should be at the centre of new theatre making.
And from there we should build slowly - writers, dramaturgs, directors, actors together with our audiences - the arts of listening, persuading, thinking, empathasing, weighing evidence and opinion until we can move toward a healthier, saner existence.
It is these very basic skills that we have lost and unless we learn them there is no possibility of democracy. The theatre, more than any other human activity, is a place to learn and develop these skills, which is why the theatre is more necessary now than it has ever been.
Not a theatre of relativism and consensus but a genuinely dialetical theatre where opposing ideas, forces, energies can be fully experienced, embodied and examined and the most difficult even insoluble problems can be witnessed and confronted. There’s a lot of work for us to do.
(23 October 2016)