Theatre with a political aspect is easy to come by. Theatre with a political aspect that is well written is harder to come by. And theatre with a political message that is well-written, well-acted, well-produced and engaging beyond its message, is a rare thing indeed.
But that is what we found at the Soho Theatre with Theatre Uncut. An evening of 8 short plays exploring the impact of the cuts announced by the Coalition Government, it is an artistic contribution to the debate against the cuts. The arts have been hit particularly hard by the cuts, and that inspired the Theatre Uncut project.
The plays, written by some of Britain’s leading playwrights, including Mark Ravenhill and Lucy Kirkwood, were made available, online, for free. The only request from those behind Theatre Uncut was that you engage with the play in some way: as the evening’s compere said,
“Whether that is a fully staged production, working through them in a drama class, or simply reading them through over the kitchen counter,” it was the message that mattered.
But it isn’t just a potent political message and sentiment that gives these plays force. They have artistic merit too. Anders Lustgarten’s Fat Man might initially seem like a lecture in anti-capitalism, but it neatly encapsulates what went wrong with capitalism by using Las Vegas as a metaphor.
It was the first time I actually got an understanding as to the mechanics behind the Credit Crunch!
David Greig’s Fragile brings in ideas from the Arab Spring, whilst uniquely engaging the audience by having us play the role of a care worker explaining to a mental health patient why his mental health centre is closing down.
It is a great piece of audience engagement, chillingly illustrating Orwellian overtones of the government knowing best, before engaging us all with a chanting promise to do something about the situation.
But there are also pieces that are simply touching, which get across the message in a more empathic way: Clara Brennan’s Hi Vis tells the story of a mother struggling to visit her disabled child, after she is no longer able to support her at home because of the cuts; Laura Lomas’ Open Heart Surgery has a young woman sitting beside her fiancé’s, with the metaphor that once you remove society’s heart, only a corpse is left behind; and Jack Thorne’s darkly satirical Whiff Whaff really brings home what happens when you simply accommodate these cuts.
The original event was on 19th Marth 2011. On that day, over 800 participants from London to New York staged their own versions of Theatre Uncut. After its initial run at the Southwark Arches in March, there was a one-off event in May at the Soho Theatre. And now, Reclaim and Meeting Point Productions are taking Theatre Uncut to Latitude Festival to continue spreading the news.
The plays are packed with humour, passion, emotion and meaning. But because they are bite-sized chunks, the evening canters along at an amiable rate with the short breaks between each play allowing you to catch your breath and focus on the next. Theatre Uncut is unmissable if you have an opinion on the Coalition cuts, or if you simply enjoy good theatre.
If you didn’t catch it in Southwark or Soho, go to Latitude. It’s worth it.
Find out more about Theatre Uncut here
Tweet them @theatreuncut
Find more about Latitude Festival here: 14th-17th July
Where else you can see Theatre Uncut: http://www.theatreuncut.co.uk/#!local-events
Produced by Libby Brodie of Meeting Point Productions
and Hannah Price of Reclaim Ltd