Is the personal still political?

I have been re-reading 'Conference of the Birds'; the book that charts Peter Brook's journey into Africa in the 1970's with a troupe of actors; the aim being to discover a universal theatrical language that could cross cultural and linguistic barriers. It is thrilling book to read in 2013 to see now what Brook was trying to achieve and what indeed has been achieved.  At the time of his journey, experimental theatre was still in it's inception. In Britain, there had been a paradigm shift within traditional theatre with John Osborne's 'Look Back in Anger' in 1956.  The experimental work of Boal and Artaud for example, were not to begin influencing work here until the late sixties/early seventies when art began to forge with political awakening; Women's movement, Black Liberation, the politics of socialism underpinning a notion of equality for all.  Companies such as Welfare State and 7:84, Women's Theatre Group (now Sphinx) that placed their work firmly within a political context began to emerge.

It seems to me that we writers and theatre-makers now live in a time where daring to dare has become a much more personalised activity. The daring is personal.  My writing always starts from the personal.  There is something I am wrestling with, trying to resolve, challenging a personal status quo.  The daring does not come from a committed involvement in a political movement or belief and I wonder about the impact of that on my play-writing and theatre making.  Are I able to write, create work that is (borrowing from Jeanette Winterson) 'wide and bold'?

Most discussions about the Arts, whatever their starting point, eventually turn back to economics, particularly in these straitened times.  I wonder how we garner wider public support for the notion of Arts subsidy?  Would our case be stronger if those not involved in the industry could understand the purpose of theatre as political as well as personal and see evidence of that.  

I am here in Wooda alone and trying to forge a new piece of work from my bumbling around in the Cornish countryside.  It is hardly as arduous as the journey taken by Brook's troupe but I like to think there is some legacy from Brook in my approach and I am trying to be brave and to dare. Charlotte Vincent will come next week to work with me.  There is an argument that says there are certain questions we dare not to ask without the support of another person, so I look forward to a new phase of daring.

Sue MacLaine2013Comment