Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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  6. Summary of Branch Meeting - 12th Nov - Politcal Theatre

Summary of Branch Meeting - 12th Nov - Politcal Theatre

20 November 2011

A great turn out of almost 40 members, not only from our branch but other London branches & new faces coming for the 1st time to a union meeting. All agreed a barnstorming session superbly chaired by Billy McColl.

Unfortunately Natalia Kaliada was unable to attend due to other work commitments but we are set to invite Natalia for a session in the New Year to hear solely the latest on Free Belarus Theatre

Anders Lustgarten opened the session, a passionate & experienced acitivist who gave a stirring view on corporate capitalism & where we are currently in England & the world. He highlighed the fact that new media & the use of mobile phone footage had thrown a light on current affairs ie police involvement in Tomlinson & De Menezes cases.

Ander's personal & work ethos is that Political Theatre should not be about facts or liberal niceties, should not make audiences feel 'bad' about what has/is happening but should be about making you think & then make you want to DO something. His play "A Day At The Racists" about the BNP showed the Pros AND Cons of being involved in that particular political party.

To look for the moral story & then put a twist & seek parallels e.g - in his upcoming radio play Anders explores the story of a couple with a hamster that keeps getting bigger & bigger..... the media frenzy that then ensues ...... why is it getting bigger ......... what is feeding it .....

In essence in a passionate 10 min speech - Political Theatre is to follow our instinct on what is not right, to raise awareness and make people think what are they going to DO about it.

Max Stafford Clark then took to the floor - a charming, funny amazing storyteller - explained his amazing career to date. The fact that Joint Stock Theatre Company grew from Maggie Thatchers comment "There is no society". Fellow Branch member & present at the meeting Ian Redford was part of the cast of a verbatim piece devised with weeks & weeks of interviews with junkies, policemen, vicars & social workers completely belied 'that comment'.

Max highlighed the fact that privatisation & the changing of working practices in British Rail could well have had a bearing on the Southall Train crash as explored in David Hare's 'The Permanent Way'.

He agreed with all of Anders comments & that political theatre writing has to be alert to not being the "dead hand of theatre" which at present is in danger of. Political theatre needs to investigate, not GIVE answers. Political theatre cannot 'change the world' but it encapsulates what we are thinking about already but not able to express it ourselves. Theatre is a microcosym of society & purely by being in the same space, all having come for many varying reasons, ALL make for the dynamic of the story told.

Politcal theatre as with all theatre has to be the story 1st, the human framework, depicting the people in a given situation & showing the admiration & repulsion in 'equal measure' of the position they find themselves in. In essence what Political Theatre should do is DISTURB!

Art imitates life & we 'reflect' where we are & the only way to change is in Max's words to "Keep dripping, dripping, dripping" & in Anders "Plugging away at it man!"

There followed a spirited Q & A session incorporating diversity, the history of politicians then & now, politlcal awareness of school students & of drama students - all summed up by Max on a positive note of:

"Hope is our most treasured possession"


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