The Guardian: When the world feels so profoundly uncertain, why put on a play?

Theatre can provide respite from the real world – but it can also share our confusion at the chaos that surrounds us and show us that we are not alone

The director Peter Brook was once asked, “What is the future of theatre?” Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied: “Tell me, what is the future of food?” In the middle of huge social upheaval, civil unrest, deep-seated injustice and a devastating worldwide pandemic that has caused economic chaos and widespread personal tragedy, why put on a play? When the world feels so profoundly uncertain, why do theatre?

Let’s say one even finds the time, resources and outlets to do some sort of play; when there are no theatres open or live audiences, what sort of play do these times require, if any? Does theatre have a role in a world in flux that is in so much pain, is protesting and is facing profound uncertainty? Or does it have a responsibility? Maybe even an opportunity?

There are of course different ways to answer these questions. There are many examples of theatre being a rich and entertaining expression of protest and ideologies, with theatre-makers putting to work their full range of theatrical tools for a specific cause. At other times, theatre has been a necessary escape from a troubled world; a momentary respite from conflicts raging outside its walls.

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