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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Political Immediacy

Tamsin Greig and Jessica Raine in David Hare's Gethsemane at the National Theatre Cottesloe 
(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)

Our recent post about the content of content on blogs, sparked a conversation that became both antagonistic and circular before this post by director Christine Bacon came up.

The piece discusses her work with London England-based and human rights-focused theatre company iceandfire and their outreach initiative, Actors for Human Rights. Their method is a "rapid response" that uses churches, pubs and everything in between "rushing the urgent news to audiences who need to hear it now". 

Her post is a direct response to a critique of the new David Hare play Gethsemane published in The Telegraph. In it, critic Dominic Cavendish, founding editor of, argues that political theatre is too slow a medium as a producing model to respond quickly enough to current events. He expands his critique of English political theatre further:
"But to many of us, idealism has been precisely the problem. There has been too much cavalier self-belief, too much succumbing to the messianic credo of "social justice". Many of my generation, not Sir David's, want less fervour and more common sense - and want fiercer material from our playwrights to puncture the complacency of those baby boomers at the top of the tree."
Does the time it takes to fundraise for and produce theatre make political theatre obsolete? Is there a developing generational split in terms of what what and how political theatre should critique? What's different about the relationship between politics and theatre in Canada?


Anonymous said...

It all depends on what level you're critiquing. People change quickly, trends take longer, systems even longer. There's a fine line between staying current with the news, and current with the times. All art dates and goes through cycles. Pumping it out faster to stay current is not the solution. It may sound cheesy, but art is timeless, and that's the way it needs to be. The creator(s) withdraws from society, focuses his/her understanding of the world into a piece of art, and then re-emerges to present the work. That's the cycle. Deadlines and due dates are nice, but works on human nature can't be cranked out to a timetable... Atleast that's the way I see it.

SHOP Program said...

I agree, in Canada, The Wrecking Ball does fill this niche quite well of responding to an immediate need for political theatre, so not all the news is bad on this front.

On the other hand, it's hard to see a finished, polished, professional production going from inception to opening night in less that a year and a half.

There is an expression in politics that "One week in politics is a lifetime." So that would be approximately 78 lifetimes between the impetus and the product. I think there is an issue to be addressed there. Especially when things like television and the interweb are responding in minutes and print media is responding in days or weeks.

Aaron Talbot said...

The form has to serve the means. Are we talking agit-prop or what?

If you want to have a thoughtful and analytical rumination about a certain issue, than you must forgo immediacy.

It won't be polished, but it will be political. It may not be timeless, but it will be timely. And, depending on how aggressive/accessible it is, it may also be effective.