Does theatre still have a social and moral responsibility?

Convener(s): Jo Faith

Participants: Sarah Grochala, Ellen Parousi, Lou Platt, Meenakshi, Helen Pringle, Joe Austin, Aaron Mirrigin, Dannie Laybell, Sharon Matthews

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Buzz words / ideas – ‘Structures’, ‘Education’, ‘choices of individuals’, ‘Aesthetic v political / deeper meanings’, ‘provoking’, ‘’role of theatre’, ‘types of practice’, ‘form’, ‘Faith’

Most people felt that theatre has a social responsibility, not everyone was sure about moral.

The word responsibility was questioned – ‘quite dry’ as opposed to the creative process. But we discussed how theatre should be seen as more ‘important’ in society, which raised a question about responsibility - we see schools as being responsible for our children, supermarkets as responsible for our food (daily needs), NHS responsible for our health… etc.

If the theatre wants more importance does it need to be more responsible?

Funding – there is often a need to have a social or moral stance to gain funding. Why is this? Should this be the case?

A director – spoke about his issue of conflict with social / moral responsibility when making theatre.

Writer – depends on the context.

Theatre – historically important as a means of passing on information.

Often messages are forgotten – information and awareness may be increased but the key message can be lost and not put into action. How can this be assessed? We are being modified and ‘transformed’ daily, surely, everything feeds into that process…

Is emotional connection as important as a mind / physical reaction? Or is it just pleasure? (essentially pornographic)

Arguably theatre that has a participatory / interactive element is more transformative.

Ongoing work has the most social benefit (working with ex-offenders, with regular contact)

Theatre so often works within the current political climate – not really addressing or challenging anything. (Often agrees with what people are already saying)

Question of Universal truths, moral framework that often the old playwrights were dealing with – many of these texts still used within the education system. Why?

Education failing to embrace enough diversity. Education should ‘provoke’. Discussed why teachers aren’t called ‘provokers’ therefore rather than ‘teachers’.

Education should teach the politics of ‘now’, aware of the fact that things, issues, students, change every year. Are there any solid truths that must always be acknowledged?

‘England People Very Nice’ a play that stirs up community, rather than encouraging good community relationships. The further degrading of victims.

Our moral and social responsibility is to educate people about issues.

Theatre draws together a wide spectrum of strangers to share ideas and raise discussion / debate.

Who is the theatre for?

People don’t like to be preached at, unless they agree with what is being preached!

Religions are stories…so is the theatre

Theatre shouldn’t try and tell everything, nothing in life does or can so neither should theatre be concerned about trying to do that.

Activism should be fun

Is theatre a social and moral act?

Provocation is ok, but a fun time is ok as well. A bad theatre experience is useful?

In the most unlikely places we find the beauty, truths

Often moral / social theatre is boring, long-winded, self-righteous.

Theatre should be using different forms, experimenting with form more.

Trend in social theatre again, why? People are disillusioned with politics, and want to voice this.

Trilogy – a joyful expression of women, questions about feminism still not resolved in society just more silent now. Why?

Social responsibility of theatre – to create a space where people can disagree.

Sense of responsibility of the playwright, the actors, the storytellers. The individual and collective responsibility. Where does personal morality operate within the structure? If theatre is all inclusive, it invites people with all beliefs and political opinions. So theatre will reflect these.