Why does so much new writing preach – and preach to the converted?

Convener(s): James Albrecht

Participants: Nic Wats, Tamsin Shasha, Claire Birch, Stella Duffy, Aaron Minnigin, Cassandra Harwood, Emily Kate Lewis, Michael Judge, Dipo Agboluaje, Ken Turner, Louisa Norman, James Flynn, Rob Hale, Gill Hambleton, Julie McMnamara.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  1. It is not always wrong to preach to the converted. eg Gay theatre of the 60s/70s
  2. The converted like to be preached to…they seek out the theatre they want
  3. Should we lie to an audience to get them to see stuff they don’t expect…reviews would spill the beans and you would not get an audience.
  4. What about Brecht? He preaches but you don’t feel preached at.
  5. Why are writing competitions always for “young writers” rather than “new writers”?
  6. Because it is so hard to get a commission, writers have to write for the theatres, audiences or arts foundations that will produce their work.
  7. To flip the argument , are “down and out drug addict plays” at the royal court watched by the Chelsea set satisfying a different “need” in “converted audiences”.
  8. Audiences are jaded just as we are.
  9. If the audience are not engaged they will feel preached at…if the play is CRAP.
  10. Are audiences readier to engage in plays that challenge their prejudices if the plays are from abroad…do we watch a foreign political play with from more of a blank canvas?
  11. Good political writing is about the juxtaposition of a strong political or social context with the exploration and revelation of equally strong and engaging character and human interaction. Good plays are rooted in character first and have an idea or a theme as a backdrop. Think Mother Courage, Death of a Salesman, Raisin in the Sun or Billy Elliot….
  12.  Political theatre is often constructed around words and ideas only and fails to engage the audience on a more theatrical level – using all the other elements available to the theatre practitioner. Think Black Watch.
  13. Where is right wing theatre?
  14. A move away from the immediate, fast turn around commission – produce pattern will help.