Should Mamet and Berkoff tell the #MeToo story? (your views, February 14)
Lyn Gardner on Berkoff/Mamet
I disagree with Lyn Gardner (Back off Berkoff and Mamet – women own the #MeToo story) on the question of ‘ownership’. This is the art of theatre: can the playwright create an engaging piece that examines, mirrors or explores the human condition – regardless of their life experiences and gender?
Life experiences are owned – stories exploring human themes, inspired by life experiences, are not. If they were, very little art in any form would be produced.
Oleanna should be all the warning needed not to let Mamet anywhere near #MeToo. He’s never exactly been sympathetic to women accusing powerful men of sexual assault.
Mamet and Berkoff have regularly been tainted with the brush of misogyny and chauvinism, but Oleanna, in my opinion, is far from it.
Thank God for Lyn. I thought I was going mad.
#MeToo was never exclusively about women – sexual abuse is not gender-specific.
This tactic of banning the other side because we don’t like something isn’t helpful. It’s divisive.
Let’s play the same card: “Why should men tell the story?” – because they are better placed to tell men’s stories. Women mustn’t (oops, slip of the pen) can’t write men’s stories. Oh I see, we want to argue ownership and thereby ban ‘the other side’. Seriously? Both sexes were involved in the story. Are The Stage opinion writers advocating censorship based on gender? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for years? If the world can address #MeToo, it can create and provide women’s stories to counter Mamet et al. Instead it mithers and complains.
Calling for victims in this kind of story to be allowed to own the narrative on stage is hardly censorship – it’s about redressing the balance of power. Men have been telling the stories for most of history. Making space for oppressed groups of people to ‘rewrite history’ means those who have previously taken up that space giving some of it up. No one is calling for men to stop writing plays altogether.
Lyn Gardner is not trying to censor – she concedes: “Maybe both Harvey and Bitter Wheat will turn out to be revelatory” – but is expressing her doubts that Mamet and Berkoff are the most appropriate people to bring anything new to this particular table. And what she has noted about the publicity so far seems to back up this doubt.
Brexit pain for theatremakers
Having read about the impending difficulties regarding the English Theatre of Hamburg, I wondered how many Equity members had voted for Brexit?
This theatre has provided work for actors, designers and technicians for more than
40 years and it is madness they should have been put in this position. Due to restrictions they will now have to recruit from Ireland, thus depriving theatre professionals living in the UK of opportunities. And conversely, our theatres gain immensely from EU theatre workers displaying their talents over here.
Also, how would our young opera singers be able to gain valuable experience if it were not for the many opera houses in Germany?
Theatres are key to UK high street
Lyn Gardner’s recent column (The death of the high street just might be good news for theatre) rightly highlights the role of theatre to re-imagine the high street and create important civic spaces for local communities. She identifies how pop-up and site-specific work can reanimate and redefine empty retail spaces, and while I agree there are exciting opportunities for this kind of ‘meanwhile use’, it’s important not to forget the civic and place-making role of our theatre buildings.
More than ever, our theatres are a key part of what makes a place special, providing places for people to gather, creating a sense of local identity and distinctiveness. Many of our most exciting theatres, such as Manchester’s Contact and the Albany in Deptford, are exploring new ways of engaging with their diverse local communities, both by working outside their four walls, in the way Lyn describes, and by making their buildings a social hub for use throughout the day and not just a place to see a show of an evening.
Investment in our theatre buildings is also an investment in our town and city centres. Projects such as Chester Storyhouse and the Stockton Globe are a catalyst for wider regeneration driving much-needed footfall to our towns and cities and making them attractive places to live, work and visit.
The Cultural Cities Enquiry report, published last week, recognises the value of our theatres and cultural buildings and explores ways of ensuring we continue to invest in them so they can adapt and reinvent themselves for our communities. Theatres are not just ‘nice to have’, they are an important part of our high streets.
Director, Theatres Trust
Quotes of the week
“I would like, please, more roles for women that do not centre around romance and love interests. I would like, please, more roles for women encompassing all it takes to be human – not just childbearing, not just attractive. I would like, please, more roles for women who DO.” Performer Natasha J Barnes (Twitter)
“That crazy space between video games and theatre, I reckon is the next frontier. In the next decade that’ll be the big thing. What happens when you actually have World of Warcraft in the real world? What happens when you have someone levelling up in a theatre production?” Punchdrunk founder Felix Barrett (Guardian)
“I do feel I want to make people shit themselves and throw up. They’ve had to leave the house. The show probably cost too much. It has to leave an imprint.” Director Ned Bennett on Equus at Stratford East (Guardian)
“When we did Dust at Trafalgar Studios it was astonishing the stuff people brought in to eat. People would get camping gear out, proper metal screw-on lids and pour hot things. People would set up picnics. One guy came in with his food shopping – nine plastic Sainsbury’s bags – an actual weekly shop.” Playwright and performer Milly Thomas (Hoovering podcast with Jessica Fostekew)
“There is no correlation between age and establishment. Caryl Churchill is still raging and there are young people coming into the industry every year who are everything we should be rebelling against. Young does not equal progressive. Old does not equal regressive.” Playwright Luke Barnes (Twitter)
“Do any theatres offer desk space to arts writers? Because that would be a very cool way to support the critical ecology.” Producer and writer Amber Massie-Blomfield (Twitter)
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