Issue: What questions did you have that you didn’t speak out to the group?

Convener(s): Alice Purcell

Participants: Madeleine Bowyer ( actress) Luzita Fereday – (actor, director and facilitator, Ros Philips (actress and all the other jobs to survive) Alison Andrews, Jon Palmer, penny Francis (lecturer, activist for puppetry) Michael Fowkes, Alice Purcell, Sam Jones, Suzy Harvey and a couple of people that came in and out .

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Initially I was there on my own. I decided to make use of the time to list my own unvoiced questions as the reason I set up the group in the first place was that I was self-censoring in the big group. I also set up a sheet of ‘questions for the bin’ this page remained blank although the response was positive!

The questions I penned:

How do we keep theatre playful? Do we have to be grown up to do theatre? Why do I feel like an outsider? (Here).

Is theatre a process or a thing? Why did theatres used to be built next to hospitals in ancient Greek Society? Are there any visual artists here? Why are we bothered? Do we make the most of theatre designers?

Note added: What about spirituality, self awareness, inner vision, what drives us?

These were penned and then the first participant arrived who is working in puppetry? (Do not have his name) We had a discussion about why I had set up my group and there was consensus that the initial question time had indeed left questions about processes and content. Quickly the group filled up and more questions arose about the level of ‘responsibility’ and seriousness of questions and a sense of a lack of consideration in the early questions that could ‘get to essence’. There was a discussion about the quality of questions driving the quality of actions and results. Someone expressed concern about the initial questions being disappointing as they had become a list of clichés about the problems of working in theatre. But it was then voiced that the questions are immaterial but he discussions they invoke that are important. There was mention of the quality of listening and that the quality of listening needs to be strong as well as the quality of questions otherwise it can set up a lack of trust in the process?   It was stated that it was a relief to have a place /context where we could reflect on the thinking process. Some people said that they do take a while to reflect before they are ready to ask a question. Someone said ‘Secret questions may produce results’ and that it may be better to hear what others have to say generally.

Is discussing the arts funding process and moaning a turn off? Someone in our group thought this was the case. Penny wanted to question the way we train critics to recognise new physical and visual theatre and puppetry and pointed out that there is no training for critics in this country and that they are mostly not arts based rather but literary based. This became quite an underlying theme for the group as well as the more philosophical questions about questions theme.

The puppetry man (sorry I do not have your name at this point) suggested that children’s theatre is approached by critics who are rather coy about the process and do not treat it as a level playing field with adult theatre.

The question of responsibility resurfaced as a frustration and there was a feeling that perhaps we could cut to the chase quicker in an outsider group? The group was described as a ‘settling place’. There was a desire expressed to stay away from a ’whingeing’ position which had happened last year? Rather than high jacking the forum how could we celebrate achievements?

How do we differ from the continent in terms of questions and seriousness? Is our culture diffident about claiming space and quality? Culture is a non-negotiable in Europe so why do we not have this value represented in this country? Some of the initial questions seemed ‘small’ in relation to these thoughts. If we are can’t formulate our questions in a strong way how do we find each other?

Penny re-iterated that she had been passionate for 70 years in theatre and that initially the author was king in theatre but that now that has really opened out and yet it is still the Michael Frays and Tom Stoppards who get the big critics interest. How do the small and interesting good companies get the same notice and funding as ‘les Mis’?

Someone pointed out that we had gone to the ‘Coward’ spot and that perhaps we were in some ways cowards as a group. ‘Perhaps we are curious and frustrated rather than devoted and disgruntled? ‘Someone asked.

Someone else pointed out that the margins can be a very flexible place to be and there was debate and diagram to follow.

How do we stay in our power while being in the margins? I summarised.


It was again voiced that there is not a great deal of vocabulary for conceptual argument in this country. Jon said if we are frustrated a lack of debate lets set up a Blogg. (If you are reading this now and have the ability to do it lets do it!) This seemed to be the point of entropy for the group and we began to dissemble. But with energy and interest. A couple of people remained and some more questions were penned.

Should we encourage more talking and heckling by the theatre audience?

How do we train more critics to appreciate visual and physical theatre as opp to literary text based work?

Shall I give up?

How can we use Shakespeare to affect change and explore gender in a classroom setting?

I wanted to form a q which had the word spontaneity in it but didn’t know what to out around it? (Sam)