I read the papers. The apocalypse is nigh. Why am I making theatre?!

Brian Logan, 19 September 2012

Last week I read a Guardian report on the fact that the ice-caps are melting faster than even the worst forecasts.

Earlier in the summer, katie Mitchell staged a thing at the Royal Court in which a climate scientist told the audience that we were all fucked. Apparently, when pressed to offer some hope as to how we could save ourselves, he said, “teach your children to use weapons.”

This is upsetting

In this context, you sometimes wonder: what should I be doing? Should we fiddle while Rome / the world burns? Is being a theatre person helping in any way? is there anything that can be done on an individual or even an industry level that will do anything other than just salve our conscience?

and: shld i be teaching my 2-year-old to use weapons? (That doesn't sound like responsible parenting?)

In this group, we discussed whether working in theatre is in any way helping to fend off the ecological / economic / spiritual apocalypse.

Answer: not in any obvious way...

Will W said that Oscar Wilde said that all art is useless. Will finds that a pleasant thought. I found it sort of likeable and also a bit depressing. But I also think Wilde was wrong.

Not many of us like the idea that we should start making didactic plays about the climate and the economy.

Will W then forwarded the perfectly valid point that there probably aren't many professions in which you'd have much sense that you were helping to save the world. Futility isn't unique to theatre

We talked about the fact that lots of people, and lots of potential audiences, think something along the lines of either (a) climate change isn't really happening, or (b) if it is happening, it's someone else's business to solve it and there's nothing I can do. or indeed © it's too late to save ourselves, so let's just have fun.

is the best thing theatre can do just make sure we go out in a blaze of entertainment??

But even if it is already too late, and the tipping point has passed, the things that we would do to avert climate change and heal the broken global economy and are in any event Good Things to Do, that would make the world better to live in. ie, stop treating the planet, one another and ourselves with such disrespect

Maybe this is where theatre can help. Not any individual theatre show, but the practise of theatre and art in general. because the practise of art fosters empathy and mutual respect - or at least it does if it's done well. It brings a bit more love and a bit less violence into the world, which is part of what needs to happen if we're to start living in ways that don't destroy the world and promote massive divisions between people and societies.

So, with apologies to Oscar Wilde, art (maybe) isn't useless and futile. And/or I'm just trying to make myself feel better about my own futility.