Wednesday, September 24, 2008

24th September 2008

Mark Fisher made a thoughtful comment on yesterday's post; he also started a blog thread in the Guardian not so long ago about the effect theatre has on the real world, in connection with the effect the success of the play "Deep Cut" had on that scandal of the deaths of young recruits at the army barracks.

"All My Sons" is a beautiful and moving play,but I wonder if at times like these we really 'need' it. What we need, I guess, is a shared and effective sense of collective morality. An understanding that human welfare is more important than short term profit.

And maybe great art helps bring that about...? I feel a bit sceptical though, I must admit, after seeing the vile behaviour of classical music lovers barracking protesters at the Jerusalem Quartet concert. They were furious at the thought that their "civilised pleasures" were being disturbed by the intrusion of middle eastern politics. And they behaved in an utterly uncivilised way as a result.

More effective than art, I suspect, might be the direct action of a forum of grieving relatives in Israel and Palestine. These are people whose family members have been killed in the conflict. Parents of the dead of both sides are meeting each other to find ways of doing what they can through non-violent action to bring the conflict to an end.

But then i found out about what they are doing, and so was given a grain of hope in that despairing situation, through a very beautiful film called "Encounter Point" I saw this Monday at the Filmhouse.

And I still obstinately think that theatre does have power in the world, and we who create it do have a moral responsability for what we create. And that it is at best deeply irresponsible, and probably also immoral, to be content to spread despair at this time. Which is why i yelled abuse at the director/creator of "I went to the house but did not enter" at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

Though quite what effect it had on him to have a middle aged trans woman suddenly erupt from the stalls and call him "full of shit" is hard to tell.

And I worry hugely about the effect my plays have on the people performing them as well as on the people watching them...

I suppose, too, that one reason i feel proud of (as well as inyensely anxious about) "Every One" is because it breaks a taboo - the taboo against thinking about death - and that it's necessary to do so. A feeling that contemplating death is necessary for enjoying life...

But maybe when we try to think about how plays or artworks might have directly changed the world we're asking the wrong question. It's a kind of category mistake. Because they affect the inner world. And perhaps sometimes, cumulatively, that affects the outer world also.

And in the end it all gets created not for any particular reason. But simply because it has to be.

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