"Theatre must be a 'safe' place... Sorry Mr Trump but the likes of Brecht, Genet, Ionesco would disagree".
I think it’s safe to say that a majority of those working in the arts are feeling a little shaken after the recent political developments and this apparent surge in right wing values. It would seem that those who are doing the most sabre rattling at the moment are not those who could be called “friends of the arts”.
Trump’s position on art (like his position on most things) is difficult to pin down but can be described as apathetic at best and downright backwards at worst. A cast member of the Broadway show Hamilton expressed, live on stage after the show, the companies feelings on the Trump administration to the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, saying “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”
Trumps response was to tweet that Mr Pence was “harassed” and that the cast should “apologise”. He claimed that the theatre must be a “safe” place… Sorry Mr Trump but the likes of Brecht, Genet, Ionesco and many others who, I can assure you, were far more intelligent than yourself, would disagree.
In the UKIP manifesto they claim they would abolish the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) if they could. The DCMS contributes an estimated £343,000,000 to The Arts Council and helps to fund art and culture across Britain. That, however is a figure that has been slashed down from an estimated £450,000,000 in 2010 by our “core curriculum” loving Conservative government… when all is said and done it looks like Brexit and Trump represent a few more miles on the uphill struggle of working in the arts.
Apart from its affect on the arts in general there’s another reason that this right wing upsurge is troubling us as a community, those who work in the arts tend to be leftists. It’s just a fact. And when leftists see equality being attacked, misogyny and racism being normalised and ignorance being upheld over enlightenment, we tend to despair.
Not all artists see the rise of the right as a bad thing though! Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry argues that that this is an opportunity to speak to a new audience, that the overall left leaning artistic community has been too elitist and disenfranchised the right wing, blue collar population.
It has to be said that I myself can feel like I live in a liberal, boho bubble a lot of the time. That, of course, is why Brexit and Trump feel like such a smack in the face for me!
Lyn Gardener recently wrote in The Guardian that “The theatre world must connect with those who feel disaffected but it should also face some unpalatable truths about how the art form is perceived by the vast majority of people”
So, how do we face those truths and how do we connect with the disaffected? We at ‘Owdyado Theatre don’t know… but we would like to! If you can think of some interesting, innovative ways to solve these problems please get in touch. We would love to hear from you on the subject.
Oh, and by the way, the entire speech given by the Hamilton cast member is online and I urge you to watch it. I think it’s beautifully elegant and respectfully put. A brilliant expression of concern from modern artists.
By Daniel Richards