What is radical/what is theatre for "plebs"

Rod Dixon, 4 October 2012

Matt Rogers “The nearest to ‘popular’ theatre - theatre for ‘ordinary people’ is stand up comedy...
Luke Broughton ”verbatim theatre eg a piece about Hillsborough made by young people from Liverpool ...a piece which spoke to the audience as a genuine voice..." The discussion then took off ...theatre which works is theatre which is an event - people will come to see something which entertains them and makes them feel good. The annual trip to London's West End is an example - the piece of theatre they see might well be high quality - the best of its type but it will probably be soulless...

Are we being patronising when saying we want to make theatre for ‘the working class’?
This was countered by arguing that making theatre ‘for’ any body is very often just dead theatre as identified by Peter Brook in his book The Empty Space...it assumes that it is giving the audience what they want.

Do they know what they want? What if they just come to escape?
it was suggested that the success of festivals is that they are not sold to any specific group - people come for the overall experience of the festival, the music, the food, the event, the crowds.... can theatre learn from this...is there a place for theatre in festivals?
No. There is a place for festival in theatre - go back to the idea of carnival - when the grotesque and the misrule of early carnivals was very much poking fun at those in power.
An interesting sociological study of the Arts looked at values...that working class

people go to theatre to escape drudgery, middle class go to learn, to debate, to show off their knowledge, upper class people go to show off their status and their wealth...and maybe who they know.
The point was also made that people stay away from theatre becasuse they expect to be ‘not for them’ ...example given that people who would never go and see Othello came to see Lennie Henri...and apparently enjoyed the experience. Have they become interested in Shakespeare generally or Northern Broadsides or WYP?? Or not.

Steve from Interplay was passionate about what makes a ‘good’ piece of theatre...it is a live experience that reaches out to the audience and touches them not literally - but too often the theatre is seen from a safe distance as if it is preserved in aspic. Making work which goes into schools has to be of a quality that will engage that audience - all theatre should have this high expectation and reach its audience. Perhaps if it doesn't it's because it just isn't very good???

SO what is theatre for? Is it failing us? Somebody argued that they didn't want to go and see yet another production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof...for someone this will be their first experience of Tenessee Williams...
Is it possible to make theatre which crosses all the boundaries of age, class, experience, race.....? If so is that what will be successful and popular/plebeian?

Is the real issue that we have to reframe the framework of theatre?
On that headache inducing question I asked everyone to stop - I needed a wee.


event, values, verbatim, class, working class, festivals, popular theatre, Class, Working Class, patronising