Making work that’s a bit taboo, a little bit naughty

Convener(s): Emma Deakin

Participants: Emma, Jamie, Louie, Kate, Paul, Mary, Allen… and a few more I think…

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Taboo subjects discussed such as;

Religion, War, Terrorism, Pedophilia, Miscarriage, Menopause, loads and loads…

It seems that TV and film can address these issues ‘easier’ than theatre can, why? Comedians also are another example, they very rarely shy away from taboo!

Why is this kind of work missing in our theatres at the moment, historically theatre has always been there to challenge and present taboos to their audience. However there seems to be little being made around the taboo subjects that matter to us. Theatre has a place to talk about what is not talked about!

Venue’s not always willing to touch it as its too risky?? Do they feel there is a danger in selling/marketing this kind of work to their audiences? They need to be more commercially viable, this means less risk taking?

About half way through the session we talked about how it was interesting that there were only three of us sitting here talking about this…hmmm…why? …Then a few more people showed up and the session was on its second wave! J

Talked about Lisa’s show (No Idea), which was edgy on disability and challenging but honest telling it like it is… this level of honesty can manage to lessen the ‘taboo’

COMEDY within the naughty/taboo subjects. Getting an audience to laugh when they don’t think they should be, also lessens the taboo, keeps it real. 

Knowing why you want to tell the story & address this subject material is the most important thing.



Using verbatim. The honesty in this is gold - and often you couldn’t write it!

No matter what the subject material, when you give the audience credit & intelligence, and approach them and yourself with truth and honesty then the work can become something very special.

Dangers or pitfalls that may be encountered when making work that’s taboo or issue based:

  • When the person/people making it are too close to the subject material OR when the makers are not informed enough about the subject material, too distant
  • The work being self indulgent
  • The work turning into a lecture, being didactic
  • Creating a piece that is a ‘carbon copy’ of what the REAL issues are. Work that begins to go somewhere and is then shying away.

Action: I (Emma) am going to start developing the piece which was the inspiration of this session and will contact those (who agreed and gave email addresses) with invitations to work in progress and/or writing to get feedback throughout the process J

If anyone else was at this session and wants to get in touch to offer feedback about the work I am making please let me know – [email protected] 

I would be very grateful to receive feedback throughout the making of this piece so that I don’t end up becoming a self indulgent wanker making it ;-)