How much of theatre is purely a left-wing pursuit (i.e. run by a left-wing dominated establishment).

Convener(s): William Bowry

Participants: Josh Neicho, Hanna Woolf, Nick fearn, Claire Dean, Garry Rolson, Martin Surtherland, Charles Peattie (amongst others)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


Stemming from the initial question, the first debate questioned the validity of the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right’; specifically whether or not they were now redundant, as they were now homogenized and conflated. However, we placed the ‘right’ as term that advocated the importance of the individual and the free-market; with the ‘left’ purporting values of socialism and a greater spread of wealth.

Initially, the sentiment of the group assumed that much of theatre’s establishment (chief executives, artistic directors and acclaimed writers) had left-wing leanings, citing Harold Pinter, Genista MacIntosh and David Hare as prime examples.  It was suggested that people who are involved in theatre, generally viewed themselves as underdogs, celebrating social change and the ‘left’ seemed an appropriate political standpoint; (possibly due to a backlash from the conservatism of the 1980’s, given the age of those who were cited). 

However it was clear that the current political climate is now in flux and a sway towards conservatism was occurring nationally; although this has not trickled down towards the theatrical profession.  But given this change, it was suggested that neo-left political work (such as David Hare) is now passé and there may well be an influx of more right-wing writers. 

Unfortunately, this change may not be imminent as it was assumed that the Arts Council and large theatrical institutions (ie. NT. RSC and Royal Court), still promote left-centered work, viewing the ‘right’ as dangerous politically that could incite a violent response (eg Behtzi).  Effectively, politically orientated ‘right-wing’ writing has no future in subsidized theatre; with the speculation that the ‘chattering classes’ would take umbrage.  This led to the belief that much of theatre’s middle-class establishment (including much of its audience), actually have personal values more akin to modern conservatism, but still purport to being deeply revolutionary and red-flag bearing lefties.  It was conceded this hypocrisy MUST change.

Theatre is pre-dominantly a middle-class pursuit and within the vast spectrum of the work produced this must be embraced. Political clichés of orange jumpsuits, making a lame stab at the foreign policy of America are rapidly becoming stale.  If theatre truly is the “last great uncensored space”, then we must embrace public opinion, however unappetizing it may seem.  Playwrights and artistic directors must be BRAVE in tackling taboo issues such as: Islamic fundamentalism, immigration, homophobia, the class gulf (among a whole host of other ‘touchy’ subjects) with HONESTY.  The only way we can embrace, reject or accept opinion is through discussion.  And if that type of work does not get produced, then the colourful spectrum of theatre, will become a dull and grey enterprise, that merely preaches to the converted.