Does theatre need to be responsible to anyone or anything?

Convener(s): Alan Wen

Participants: Fran Gerona, Paul Margrave, Alyn Gwyndorf, Nicky Petto, Rebecca Mansa Jones

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Definition is not meant to be simply about moral responsibility but Responsibility to who? – the audience? Artists? Art itself? Yourself?...

e.g. Creator fulfils his personal intention to mess with audience expectations – is it irresponsible to disappoint your audience to satisfy your own interest?

Public funding: also related to audience (and of course, tax payers), should plays funded by public money be pure entertainment that makes returns or aim for social outcomes or create a piece that will have political/social meaning in long run? – however, making simply light entertaining theatre can have a good social outcome if it gets a community to enjoy and get into theatre

Responsibility cannot be intrinsically linked to money (funding, ticket-buyers)

Artistic and moral responsibility:

  • g. a gay play with language and jokes that aim to appeal to gay men (90% of this audience demographic) – are you responsible for the 10% who might be alienated/excluded?

Not really – audience have responsibilities too if they attend the performance

If a play sets out to focus on an issue that may be controversial then it would be irresponsible to dilute its integrity (e.g. play about racism and censoring any politically incorrect lines; graphically violent films but without blood)

Theatre might also not be as influential as TV/film to have the capacity to do harm so maybe it dies not need to be responsible. But if theatre has no such power to challenge us and hasn’t any influence, surely it’s a waste!.

Artistic responsibility: ultimately important responsibility is to your vision/aims/intentions (would include ‘yourself’ but that’s too much a cliché) – if it’s to make an entertaining show that will dazzle large audiences, it must live up to those expectations.

Responsibility to engaging audience with politics/current affairs: it can’t be a lecture, string of slogans or propaganda

This was quite a broad, open question, often leading back to ‘responsibility to audience’, not necessarily a conclusion reached – except maybe we don’t have nearly as many responsibilities as we think we do!