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Walking the Tightrope – The Tension Between Art and Politics

Walking the Tightrope – The Tension Between Art and Politics at Underbelly Topside, Edinburgh. Photo: Camilla Greenwell Walking the Tightrope – The Tension Between Art and Politics at Underbelly Topside, Edinburgh. Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Inspired by a series of cancellations of cultural events last summer, including the UK Jewish Film Festival at London’s Tricycle Theatre and Brett Bailey’s controversial ‘human zoo’ Exhibit B at the Barbican, Walking the Tightrope consists of eight short, quick-response pieces by high-profile authors designed to widen the discussion around censorship in the arts. The plays also touch upon the ways in which art is funded, corporate sponsorship and the policing of language.

Neil LaBute’s contribution, Exhibit A, in his typically frank fashion, looks at what people will deem acceptable in the name of art. It’s subtle as a lump hammer and likely to be the most divisive of the plays. Tim Fountain’s piece, meanwhile, explores the boycott of The City, the Israeli hip-hop show, at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe in an amusing but also thought-provoking way.

Walking the Tightrope also includes a post-show audience discussion about the issues raised featuring different panellists each day. While some of the plays are blunt instruments, as rapid-response writing so often is, they are ideal as conversation-starters, and it’s good to see the discussion opened up further – particularly following the recent cancellation of the National Youth Theatre’s proposed production of Homegrown by Omar El-Khairy, one of the contributing playwrights here. This is something we need to keep talking about.

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Verdict
A series of debate-triggering short plays exploring censorship and the arts
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