Setting the Scene – Life and the Stage

This week’s papers have had a number of articles about our theatres and what they produce, and in particular about the lack of women’s roles within companies, on the stage and as writers.

I can recall having this same discussion with a group of youth leaders and their concern over youth organisations being dominated by the white middle class male and how that could be changed. Can it be changed we wondered, if that’s how society  was put together.

There has been so much recently in the news and in our lives on this island about the behaviour and attitude of the dominant elite in our society and how they perceive the rest of us and how things should be.

Should – don’t like that term. Should belongs to the world of the safe. That’s not to say that we must do away with safe, but what we must add is a good breath of radicalism, diversity and difference.

Is it likely to happen? At the moment it all feels like a nationalistic convergence towards the sheep-like mentality preferred by the ‘Safe Shoulds’. We’ve rolled from Jubilee, to footie, to tennis, now the olympics. All of this is about conformity, we are compelled to join together during these tough times and prove ourselves to be a stoic society (yes I include Scotland in this too – asserting itself and conventionally so).

Will anything break this place of clinging to the conventional ways change and who will start it? I’ve no idea -most likely a writer though. I really do hope that it happens otherwise we are doomed to spend our existence in the straight jacket of safe for decades. Producing never-ending Shakespeare, Opera etc all in the same vein for ever and ever.

I have also  never understood why there aren’t more adaptations from literature to the stage where there are more FMC’s and young people as MC’s. What are we afraid of? And surely this is a good way to encourage young people in to the theatre too? I really enjoyed Something Wicked by NTS – as did my child. There were plenty of young people in the audience.

I have heard people in the arts say that young people should (there we go again) know their place in society and not be encouraged to be in charge, be too forward with their art. It seems some adults want to maintain their middle-class positions and their ‘right’ to play, go see what they want to and not allow young people to do as they wish. Pants to that!

But the articles are right in that theatre is a reflection of  how society is controlled – why would it be any different -what would make it radical? Same with any set-up. If a group mimics society then it will be no different in its aims and vision. If a group evolves around a community of the mind – maybe it will. But in there lies all means of radicalism -some of which I don’t care for either!

The changes begin earlier in life – by people realising that allowing free-spirit is a good thing for all of us. Conformity only brings staidness. This week our high school went about choosing their head boy and girl. My son went for the depute position, but was made head boy. He was surprised. I was obviously pleased not just for him, but for the school itself. The two people chosen for top positions represented the other side of society – the compassionate, articulate free-spirit radicals, working-class – who would gain from being trusted with responsible positions and have a huge amount to offer too. Some will complain and mutter as they do – but let them.

We have to accept that allowing and giving positions in our society to people from diverse backgrounds is a GOOD THING. You only have to look at what has happened in the lap of the white middle class male to Britain to see that. It has been a monumental cluster-fuck. Bring on the changes we need, and we will see our arts and culture bloom too – I hope! More women, more young people, more of everything else outwith the “Safe Shoulds”.

Dalai Lama: Young people first – it’s their future

Francois Matarasso: Diversity in art and culture will save us