Thoughts about things I've done and news about what I'm going to do.

What my thoughts look like after editing/second-guessing.

An irregularly updated blog (mostly) about theatre.

  • The Morning After 24 June 2016 | View comments

  • I don’t know how coherent this is going to be. It definitely won’t be slick or neat. It’s fuelled by distress, fury, a cold sense of emotional suppression or shutdown as means of survival, and other things I can barely process let alone articulate (and I’m aware I’m already contradicting myself. Consider the tone set).

    Whilst recently watching a show - I’ve no idea what in the show, audience, venue, overall evening or my mind provoked this, but something/s did - I felt overwhelmed by the sense of being shut off from the world. Not in an exhilarating, there’s-no-CCTV-here-so-we-could-do-anything-and-no-one-would-ever-have-to-know way, but in an unpleasant, ugly, sad way. We were a group of people who’d shut ourselves in a dark room, treating this show as the most important thing worthy of our attention, with zero contact or communication happening with the outside world during the performance. We’d contrived to isolate ourselves. This is not necessarily a wholly rational feeling (if a show comments on the world at large, is that a form of communication? Well, evidently not a powerful enough one to stop me feeling this in this instance). But briefly, I was genuinely overwhelmed by a sharp awareness of this.

    And this morning I woke and the voice I was so happy to use to say ‘Remain’ yesterday felt silenced. I know it wasn’t. It was one of over sixteen million voices, one voice that called out the same thing as 48% of all voters. It was just that Leave called out four points louder. And those four points hit me in the gut and made me feel weaker than I felt yesterday.

    Now, theatre will not fix all the world’s problems. Obviously. But it has power. It has worth. But that worth is minimised, it is greatly diminished and diluted when it is isolated. When it happens within black rooms where a few shut themselves off. When it is a discrete entity, that might talk about or make oblique references to or be inspired by the world at large but happens in parallel to it, not as a part of it.

    Yes, this is a little general. I do not have a five-step-plan or a cut-and-paste blueprint of what needs to be the counterpoint to discrete, isolated theatre. My mind’s a f-ing mess right now frankly, so the more general is what it’s grasping. There are things - many things - happening that are *not* the kind of theatre I’ve detailed above (#notalltheatre #redundantuseofhashtags), that are wonderful, that welcome people in and deal with the world, theatre that serves and helps and supports people, theatre that isn’t theatre for theatre’s sake. But my head’s fuzzy and doesn’t want to point to specific examples as though there’s one way of doing something.

    This is also not a ‘let him without sin cast the first stone’ (paraphrasing?) blog post. I’m not saying I have a perfect track record, I’ve been working in theatre for four years and it’s all learning. Some things I’ve made have reached out and had ripples beyond theatre walls. Some have not. Sometimes I knew this would be a case early enough that I should’ve changed, adapted, rethought things but failed to do so. I absolutely can get better at making work with communities, at creating something that feels like it reaches out to communities and also creates a community that welcomes anyone in. What’s more: I *need* to get better.

    Today, more than ever (in my mind, at least - the wonderful blind spots/selectivity of a privileged, 26 year old mind), I need to get better at that. I need to count it as an essential, inalienable part of being a good theatremaker. It must be part of my metric for success. It upsets me beyond words how - over the course of the referendum campaign, but even more now that Leave votes outnumbered Remain (4 points. 4 points. In an opinion poll. My head won’t let that go) - so many people now feel less welcome in the UK, even possibly less safe. This is not me spoiling for anti-Leave-voter sentiment, for more conflict. That is not what’s needed, it is not the best use of my energy and emotions. Division is not solved by more division. So it’s not that. But it is an acknowledgement of how the Leave vote has given seeming legitimacy to and emboldened some horrific voices, and we need to work to undo that consequence.

    Everyone I know who works in theatre wants it to be a welcoming place. I feel at ease in theatres, but I’m aware a significant element of that is a) having worked in the industry for a number of years and b) possessing various privileges, so that theatres have never felt like alien spaces to me. I want that for everyone - I don’t like the thought (however true it may be) that something that gives me so much joy feels, to others, like it’s actively shutting them out. Like it doesn’t care about or acknowledge them. Or that it only cares about them as observers, devoid of agency and of no interest or worth to the industry beyond a pair of eyes to watch things. (Hyperbole, perhaps. I’m not differentiating between theatres, between shows, between companies, between audiences, etc. This is a blog of feelings more than facts, perhaps. And that’s how, when my mind’s as bleak as this, I feel that idea.)

    I want that to change and I want to be part of that change and I want to work with others who want that too. I want theatre that makes people feel welcome - in theatres, in streets, in anywhere performance can happen, but also in the UK. Maybe my mind’s fixated on this notion as my way of coping. I’m too scared of sitting alone in my flat feeling absolutely black. Tar f-ing pitch. So I want something to do, I want to use this to at least make me, and the things I do, and the industry I work in, better. My head’s still spinning but I need something solid to grasp onto. And that’s as solid as I have.

    There’s a contact form on this website. My thoughts are half-formed right now, but I want to commit myself to something, however small, right now. Anyone who messages me through that contact form with a UK address, or email address if you don’t want to supply a postal one, I will send you something. I can write short stories. I can make basic twine games. I know good cake recipes I can share. I can record stories or speeches. I’m respectable at sketching portraits.

    I can’t say when I’ll send something - as soon as I can (I’m only one person, right now anyway). I won’t know what would make you feel welcome, or listened to, or entertained, unless you tell me, so that’s what the message is for. It feels risky and potentially stupid (not to mention faintly MPDG) to offer this, but I’m entering into it with hope and goodwill. It might not qualify as theatre, it may still be far from the ideal, magical form of show that I’ll spend years reaching for (I know it’s still within the to/for structure, not entirely with), but it’s positive and it’s active. That’s something. It will not make everything that needs to be okay, okay. I know that full well.

    There’s no suitable ending to this. There’s no ending to this. It needs to be a constant effort to be better, to look outwards, to invite in, to practice and learn until I don’t have to use generalities because I’ve found methods and forms and relationships that achieve what I so badly want right now.

    This is more emotional that I normally get (or at least it feels that way). But it feels necessary. It feels worth saying. And yes, there is a lot to be done in the country in general. Writing a blog criticising how isolated theatre can be, then writing about theatre and disregarding everything else that is going on, everything else that we’ll need to work on and repair and build, seems contradictory (hello callback to the first paragraph, sometimes neat structural loops still find a way). And I don’t just feel everything mentioned here. I don’t just feel hopeful and proactive and other good things, I feel ashamed and scared and confused and not quite here. It’s relationships - preserving them, strengthening them, building new ones - that I know is what’s going to stop that last one. That’s what I want for me, that’s what I want to offer, and that’s what I want my theatre, at least, to be about.

    Push the button. Post the blog. See if I can wake up tomorrow feeling even fractionally better.

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