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Theatre As A Voice Of Protest

13/10/2017 13:34 BST | Updated 13/10/2017 13:34 BST

Rallies, protests and direct action against government, lobbyists and corporations have been one of the few ways that positive change has been made for the 99% throughout history.

But the 'leaders' in society would have you think different. Propaganda would have you think that the government 'gifted' us with free speech, an eight hour work day, a five day working week, holidays, safety nets etc. But in reality those rights were fought for, bled for, organised for and many heroes were arrested for them.

Everyone has seen that recently 'protest' is becoming popular again around the world. And this is a great thing. But we must be careful to understand what it is we are protesting and where our voice really adds value; politicians spin circumstances and try to direct our movement towards things that don't actually stop any of their atrocities, or agendas.

For instance, Neo-Nazi vs Protestor is a cat and mouse game of little importance. I don't mean to imply that resisting Nazis isn't a noble cause; of course it is - but balding privileged white Neo-Nazis are not making policy, (I can't help think of the scene from The Big Lebowski, where The Dude and his friends confront the men who torched his car; "Are these the Nazi's Walter? No Donny, these men are cowards").

Donald Trump and a horde of corporate elites are the ones making law. Popular to contrary belief, they are smart and gifted in relation to media 'spin'. Isn't it interesting that guns, or abortion are the leading arguments in the US media every year? They're important yes, but is that all that people are allowed to debate?

The politicians love that the people are preoccupied with protesting those things and marching against Nazis while they literally attempt to destroy our world with genocidal climate policy, Nuremberg-like immigration, tax cuts for the rich, war mongering, and ludicrous heath care. Don't put your fight into just ideology, or rally against the lowly skinhead (who is loving the attention). We must rally on Trump, his cronies, and the republican hoard constantly; they should expect no quiet, they should expect that wherever they go, there will be thousands of people peacefully obstructing their plans.

Trump is a master at spinning protest away from his debunked policy, pushing US society toward citizen on citizen brawls instead of going after the real enemy. Don't get me wrong, people should be angry but we need better perspective. Be upset that the USA through war, proxies, funding and coupes have killed roughly 55 million people since WW2*; toxic water, crippling student loans, police's murders, climate change denial, disgusting agriculture- having the audacity to push for tax breaks during Hurricane Irma, the list goes and on. Trump will happily throw petrol on the fire, or make himself look like an idiot - it distracts people from how much money they're making, and from how much they're literally screwing over the 99%.

I recognise that it is difficult, everyday there is some other nonsensical decision made or some news story that takes people off course. I understand that it is hard to not respect speeches made by politicians. I understand that we would like to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt, But unfortunately- actions don't lie, and their actions are literally the corporate hammer against any change necessary. We cannot lose sight of this. And we can no longer look towards our political leaders to lead us in the right direction. We can't even trust our TVs.

We must organise, we must develop communities. Communities grounded in solidarity. To help make small changes which in turn will become big changes. In order for that to occur we need to rethink our cultural and public spaces, and we a shift in thinking in regards to how we make art/entertainment is paramount. For instance, in director Edgar Wright's newest heist movie Baby Driver. Cooler than cool getaway driver Baby is not real; no matter how much we like the idea, people aren't that cool/slick, and they don't use as polished language. It's a fantasy. And so much of film and television is like this.

Of course you can argue that escapism has its place, but in a world gasping for sincerity, we must develop our arts so they once again, honest. Because if we stay in our consumer conscious obsessed, wage pseudo-slavery, selfish headspaces any longer, we will potentially lose everything. The American Dream is a nightmare to most people and in order to revive it we must understand that our enemies are not each other (even those who hold vile and obnoxious views) but the people with platforms and power that lie to us.

I am ready to make changes to my life and do my part. I am a theatre director, so I will use what I have at my hands and my skill sets to help kick-start the kind of communities discussed above.

My aim, through my company, Craft Theatre is to create a canvas for us to be able to be connected with volunteer groups so we can be a bridge and create honest spaces for communion. There are plenty of theatre makers who want to develop 'theatre' away from boring plays about nothing. And we are part of that movement.

Because right now the theatre has become about sitting quietly in our privilege and pretend to detach ourselves from society, it allows us sit back and critique and unconsciously pretend we're so far from the atrocities of society; so above them. We may even debate theatre, or post about it on Facebook and think that's doing our bit for the world.

But people representing 'polished human contexts' (theatre) in a dark room is not important. Community is important. Solidarity is important. Being in and of your world is important. Helping the tired, broken, the downtrodden; that is important. Theatre cannot just be about the theatre. Art cannot just be about art. Music cannot just be about music. Culture cannot just be about producing profit or confirmation bias.

Our lives cannot just be about in-fighting and justified violence, or iPhones, or nights out or Nazis. We're not weak and we're not powerless. True revolution has happened before, many times. If we can develop our solidarity, our public space, our honesty and integrity, and then protest government policy without cease, we can begin to create the world that supports everyone and doesn't ruin the planet.... Or, what the fuck are we doing?

Rocky Rodriguez Jr. is Craft Theatre's founder, artistic director and practice based research facilitator. Craft's new work A Nazi Comparison runs until 29th October at Waterloo East

*SOURCE:

CHOMSKY Noam & VITCHECK Andre, 2013. On Western Terrorism: from Hiroshima to drone warfare, London, Pluto Press. (page 1)

"Between 50 and 55 million people have died around the world as a result of western colonialism and neo-colonialism since the end of World War II."

"This relatively short period has arguably seen the greatest number of massacres in human history. Most of them were performed in the name of lofty slogans such as freedom and democracy".

"Along with the 55 million or so people killed as the direct result of wars initiated by the West, pro-Western military coups and other conflicts, hundreds of millions have died indirectly, in absolute misery, and silently."