Does London need politicians who love theatre? 

Convener(s): Josh Neicho

Participants: Josh, Siri (& Sam Jones) 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

Discussion quickly broadened to consider “Do we need politicians who love theatre?”

Examples of politicians who enjoy theatre e.g. Michael Portillo, but no recent PM very interested in it since Macmillan.

Idea that we should have politicians who come out to say they love or hate theatre, just should have a strong feeling about it. This would partly make for just better politicians – more rounded, more conviction – but could also lead to more funding though the influence of some politico theatre enthusiasts. UK political culture does not want to offend. It’s difficult to engage London audiences when the only scandal is over something salacious, e.g. Spanish sex show at the Riverside Studios, were audience members really having blow jobs?, not intense political controversy.

Compare and contrast with Norway – tradition of freedom of speech and expression, fewer people from other cultures thus naivety. Young politicos have put on a theatre project with Lithuanian actors, then took applause for themselves as directors - to take advantage of European Union free movement of people and make a political point. Created a riot. Or in other arts, example of fashion/beauty photo exhibition of Angolan land mine victims, question of whether the girls felt exploited but they said they had never been seen as beautiful before. Political types here or in Norway generally not interested in theatre or the arts unless it has an agenda.

Siri’s feeling: we need people who dare to push boundaries and say things that can offend to make the debate happen. Example of Mohammed cartoons – Christian readership may have had same reaction to Jesus cartoons 50 years ago. Admiration for the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali even if she has exaggerated/twisted the truth, of course she would from her horrific experience.

Tony Blair wanted to be an actor though not apparently interested in theatregoing. What kind of actor would he be? Modern – a male political Vagina Monologues. Shakespeare – Richard II? Sam Jones thought in a reverse Macbeth, Blair is Malcolm – consummate politician, generation after true warriors, deceptively presenting himself as worse than Macbeth then agreeing to assume kingship; Gordon Brown is Macduff, successor to John Smith’s Duncan. (Will some-one put on this production perhaps when Brown’s leadership is challenged?) But who is Macbeth? And what theatrical character would George Bush be?