Jack Hudson, 10 January 2016


Jolie, Patrick, Vivian, Stella, Chris, Shawn, Steve, Marianne, Anna, Adam, Kirstin,

Gavin, Max, Pia, Nick, Nikki, Jess, Lucy, Susie, Jack, Caroline, Ashley, Frances,




People engage more with real/normal human characters – feelings effected through

the audience relating to the characters.

Anecdotal human examples/stories are key. People’s opinions are more easily swayed

by the people they love, therefore it helps to create characters that the audience feel

attached to.

The story is what draws people in.

Danger of dehumanising/caricaturising the people who are ‘under attack’ (e.g. “Tory

Scum”), which is unhelpful.

People are more emotional about political/social issues at the moment which can

make voices louder (and thereby harder to engage with?). We should focus on a

gentle, kind, hopeful message over an angry one.


Talking about the ‘converted’ and the ‘unconverted’ is unhelpful because it is not a

dichotomy, it’s a continuum.

It is problematic that political theatre has become synonymous with left-wing


The central issue should be taken out of the Left vs Right argument because

polarising the debate ostracises certain people/sides.

There might be an argument for working with the other ‘side’

But this is difficult because people’s opinions about the government (for example) are

so divided, if not opposed/contradictory, making it hard to find common ground.

Psychological case studies show that people’s biases (e.g. confirmation bias) will

influence their opinions on things (e.g. political speeches) if context is removed (i.e.

you’ll feel differently about the same text if you’re told the author is Right-wing or


It is important, therefore, not to be too one-sided, which is off-putting, but to get people

onside first and then subtly introduce the challenging subject – like a Trojan horse.

There is also a case, however, to be made for work that is biased.

e.g. Torycore, which acts as a galvanising space for anger, providing like-minded

people with a catharsis and a source of motivation but also sparks a conversation.

(More often that not, however, music is apolitical and can therefore be a good Trojan


There is value in preaching to the converted because it keeps people motivated and

re-establishes their ideas.


The arrogance of saying you’re going to change someone’s opinion is off-putting.

However, is there any point in creating political theatre if it’s not leading towards a

conclusive point? Such work needs to have an agenda of some point.

Furthermore, it would be disingenuous to say we don’t have an agenda and we

shouldn’t feel ashamed of feeling in the right.

Can we use behavioural change psychology as a resource for creating such work?

(worth looking at We Are What We Do’s campaign to reduce plastic carrier bags).

What’s more important, creating theatre or challenging ideas? Because, if it’s the

latter, then maybe the best thing to do is step outside of theatre or engage with a new

audience and then bring them back with you (e.g. The Yes Men – using

multimedia/mainstream entertainment).

Theatre that translates into the mainstream can have more of an impact – e.g.

Backstage in Biscuit Land. This is a good example of a Trojan horse, which presented

itself to an audience who hadn’t necessarily formulated their opinions of the subject

and challenged them during the show.

Street theatre is dying out (lack of funding?) but can also be incredibly effective.

Theatre can have an incredible impact – like it did in Russia when art was heavily

censored, but in our society theatre has become part of the establishment, which

makes it harder to be radical and have the same effect (because of, for example,



Is key (it’s no good if the work is rubbish)



- Tell Them That I’m Young and Beautiful at The Arcola

Individual situations/stories which didn’t start out with any political intention

Musical element

- Confirmation by Chris Thorpe (edited - sorry, Chris!)

Feelings of discomfort – made to question own bias

- Early Days

Audience form interim councils in fictional failed state (like a model UN)

Wide mixture of audience helped to realise complexity of such situations

- Children of Men (film)

Inspired to join Amnesty charity


Important to consider who is coming to see the work(s) – is it worth considering trying

to target other people?

But don’t discredit who you already have and make friends (so they have to come!)

The idea of an ‘issues play’ fills some people, even regular theatregoers, with dread.

Touring community theatre/work to target environment (e.g. hospitals) and broadening

conversation out into other mediums/forums (e.g. post-show discussions) (basis in

agit-prop history)

Going in with an idea to convince people of might never work, partly because you can’t

control what the audience’s reaction will be (e.g. Laura Wade’s Posh – enjoyed by a

vocal Right-wing audience).

Work with target audience to understand and bring them what they want and then use

that format/medium/genre to convey message.

London might not be the best/most important place to produce such work because it is

already saturated with Left-wing movements/art, whereas other parts of the country

are more Right-wing/have access to less theatre.

There are issues with class contained in artistic discussions of politics/social issues –

the best political initiatives enable people to have a voice and focus on relatable

experiences rather than attempts at persuasion.

Where does the responsibility of engaging the audience lie? Venue? Company?


All things combined together (more than just the work) is most effective.


Banner Theatre Company – community theatre

Tour work to unions in order to make money to fund work but this makes it harder to

get ACE funding because it’s preaching to the converted.

Can funding come from the venue, combined with ways to target the community?



Important to try and broaden activists/audience because it’s often a small group of the

same people involved (the internet is possibly at fault for making people feel like

they’re doing something when they’re not?)

There is a perception that protests are dangerous, boring and/or ineffectual.

The 21st century provides us with more mediums for protest/expression than were

available in the 20th century (e.g. flash mobs).


Political theatre of the 1970s faded out, partly because it took itself too seriously?

(Good work empowered people’s voices but didn’t tell audience that the makers knew


Humour and enjoyable entertainment is a good tool/Trojan horse, partly because it

appeals to a wide range of ages/backgrounds/interests etc.

(e.g. Italian carnival float – ‘Fuck The Austerity Jazz Band’)

Work about political/social issues can be too miserable, and therefore unengaging.

A typical failing of the Left is to get bogged down in dry/pernickety debate which is

incredibly off-putting and un-motivating (e.g. Momentum meetings spending weeks

trying to nail definition of movement and all the while losing members).


the Pink Dot protest in Singapore, where it is illegal to be gay: Everyone wears pink

and goes to a carnival/festival and at sundown everyone puts a pink filter over their

phone and shines the light into the airs creating a giant pick dot. This movement has

grown from hundreds to hundreds of thousands in a very short time and began with

stories of people’s experiences/people they knew.

Rebel Clown Army: came out of workshop with Angela de Castro and John Jordan.

Used clowning techniques on marches and protests (e.g. throwing giant pink pretzels

at George Bush after he choked on a pretzel, filling bags with vibrators and other

things that would be embarrassing when searched by police. Caveat: The police

studied clowning techniques to effectively combat this…


Is it worth creating a website where theatre-makers can come up with new/better ideas

for protest?

e.g. Shift Mobs – a library of ideas for innovative/theatrical protest methods with an

element of fun.

Might need an element of feedback/criticism so that people can learn from mistakes.

Worth looking at protest groups that use elements of theatre, such as Anonymous and

Occupy. However, these groups also have a central message. You need vehicle for

communication AND content to be communicated. But, there is a danger that if you

link such a resource/movement/website to one group then you alienate others.


It is important to connect with your audience through shared experiences/emotions,

which is most readily done through engaging/loveable characters.

Setting out to opening challenge people’s opinions might be self-defeating because

heavily biased work can be off-putting (thought there is room for it as a way to


Finding some kind of Trojan horse – a way to put your message inside a more

palatable medium (e.g. comedy) is key.

There are questions to be asked about the audience who are coming to these shows,

who the target audience are, and what they want in terms of


There are ways theatre can be used to improve protest movements (for example, by

making them more enjoyable).

It may be worth setting up a network of people/ideas to bring activism/theatre together.


Community Theatre, politics, opinions, Opinions, Politics, community theatre,

THEATRE, Theatre, Social Issues, theatre

Comments: 2

Steve Lawson, 12 January 2016

this was a really useful and insightful session. Thanks.

Confirmation is by Chris Thorpe, not Chris Goode ;) x

Jack Hudson, 12 January 2016

Whoops, thanks for spotting that! Sorry Chrisses.