Political plays about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are repeatedly failing to reach American theatres. The US playwright Naomi Wallace is doing something about it – by setting sail for Gaza
It’s seldom, if ever, that a piece of theatre changes the world. But it can challenge the way we think about it and provide a forum to do so. As Simon Stephens observed in his Working Diary: “I don’t think that theatre has ever been more important. In a world dislocated and disengaged by technology, it is the one forum in which we are encouraged to sit next to people we have never met before and look in one direction and share a live experience that exercises our brains and our sense of aesthetic. It is necessarily a mirror to ourselves. The responsibility of the artist is to decide what that mirror will show and how it will allow the light to fall.”
That’s true, but it’s rare to come across a piece of theatre, such as Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation, which really makes you question what you think. Or a show that so enrages you that it sends you back out into the world determined to actually do something. The urge to feel “useful and not just decorative” – as someone put it during the 2008-09 Gaza war – is a strong one for increasing numbers of theatre-makers, for whom art and activism are entwined. Their lives, politics and practice are one and the same, feeding into each other. Unlike previous generations of political playwrights who saw their plays as a means of excavating the state of the nation and the world, these are artists for whom making theatre and being involved in politics are intrinsically related and for whom direct action can be part of their artistic practice.