I am thinking of retiring. Can you convince me that theatre is worthwhile? 

Convener(s): Anne 

Participants: Anne, Katherine, Suzy, Gemma, James, Julia, Sara, Matthew and a selection of many other people who drifted in and out.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Very generously, the participants of this session gave me some free therapy/ life coaching which was very nice of them.

My main problem with theatre and why I am thinking of retiring is that this industry I have chosen and its flagship buildings are exclusive and generally attract white ‘posh’ people who have been educated to a certain level. I am disgruntled that I have to go outside of these buildings in order to make work for a variety of people.

At the beginning of the session people gave reasons as to why theatre is worthwhile such as:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It sheds light on things.
  3. You can use your skills to help others.
  4. It’s nice for people to have stuff to look at.
  5. A theatrical experience can touch people

Also, many people raised the point that there is nothing wrong with white, ‘posh’ people watching theatre.

It was wisely pointed out to me that I am trying to make a massive cultural shift by trying to bring all areas of people into the theatre, the fact is that lots of people consider theatre to be as they studied it at G.C.S.E level, boring and stuffy, they may also think only posh, educated people go. We need to work together with government in order to create this change. Sara pointed out that I should recognize my sphere of influence and do what I can within that rather than feeling depressed at the whole, sorry situation. Katherine said that I should ensure a certain marketing strategy is part of the deal when I am asked to create work in a building.

Somebody questioned our right as theatre makers to presume various sections of our society should come to the theatre or indeed be affected by it. Perhaps they just don’t like it? I would say they can only discover this if it is actually, truly available for them to see.

Gemma pointed out that it is generally accepted that music and film enriches people’s lives and there is therefore a possibility that a larger amount of people could think this way about theatre but they haven’t been exposed to it. Perhaps then we should ambush people by creating pieces in unexpected places, an impromptu performance in a club was mentioned. The idea behind Anthony Gormley’s sculptures on the south bank was cited. However, the fact still remained that this would take me from buildings and from plays and the type of theatre that I like to do.

After going around in circles, with a slight foray into poetry, suddenly there was an influx of people and also positivity. It was suggested I embrace this anger and use it, put a sign on the door of a theatre saying ‘no white posh people allowed’. I should recognise my need to be solitary but also discover a mentor and ask friends for positive support and most of all be true to myself and the work I want to make, it is only then that I can tackle the question of my audience.

The session ended with this positive energy.

Thank you to all who turned up for challenging my negativity and for generally being wise owls.