This week I want to talk about theatre that is created in order to create social change, open up discourses on subjects that have previously been hidden and giving an opportunity for those who are voiceless the room to speak.
Over the years I have seen a fair few productions that have have a ”message” and I can quite frankly say it’s my favourite type. I truly believe in the transforming power of theatre, yes it’s there to entertain but it’s also there to make you think and question.
Whilst I was at Uni I created my own theatre company called Hushed Nation, our focus was on giving the homeless population a voice. Throughout our creation we were heavily influenced by a company called Cardboard Citizens. Cardboard Citizens work tirelessly to change the UK’s perception of homelessness, how people end up in it and highlighting how the system is set up to allow people to fall through the cracks.
With various different productions and projects Cardboard Citizens have started the conversation about homelessness, it certainly opened my eyes to issues that hadn’t crossed my mind. Cardboard Citizens have done amazing things and really are one of my favourite theatre companies in the UK!
All In A Row
Last month theatre Twitter-sphere was all of a flutter and rage over the Southwark Playhouse’s production of All In A Row – a play about one set of parents learning to live with an autistic child.
Theatre-goers and activists alike were angry about how the child with autism was portrayed as a puppet instead of a human actor. They took to Twitter to view their opinions with some even verbally abusing the actors.
The Southwark Playhouse used this commotion in order to promote their show (I don’t think that this was in such great taste but lemons into lemonade I guess?), they also released a statement explaining as to why they made the decision to have the child be played by a puppet.
I don’t know enough about Autism to know if they were right or not but it proves how divisive theatre can be. Although it made people upset it did in turn make people talk about Autism, how it is viewed and how it is dealt with in our homes, schools and medical services.
There are lots of small-ish theatre companies that focus on change but this type of theatre can also been seen in the big productions.
The seemingly simple act of Marianne Elliott changing Bobbie’s gender in Sondheim’s Company can be seen as one example. Not only was Elliott ripping up the rule book she also created a discussion about gender roles in the modern world.
9 to 5, a fun loving camp and tongue-in-cheek show by the great Dolly Parton even opens up the conversation about feminism and equality in the work place. And the new production & Juliet is re-writing one of the most famous plays in the world and giving it a feminist edge.
It’s so important that theatre remains a place for social discourse and social change. From the underground to the mainstream the great power of play can open the eyes and teach those who may have remained stuck or ignorant and give a helping hand to those who desperately need it.
Till Next Time,