History is everywhere for this generation. It is potentially at our fingertips, on every 24 hour news channel, the internet, our mobile phones and pdas, but the wars happen elsewhere, we see things on our screens, and for all of it, the horror is never really a part of our lives. Do you remember what everyone said when the planes hit the Twin Towers? “It looked just like a film”. For many it was an individual experience, each person saw it in front of their own little screen.
Everything is mediated, comes through one channel or another, and people live in new worlds to avoid this one as it fights to get at you. Fights to tell you how to live, what to buy, what is ‘in’ and why it’s necessary for you to Please Your Man. So for this generation, drowned in the sound of a thousand cries, history is nothing- there’s too much to hear and the distortion is so high that it seems too far away to matter. Everything is like white noise, beyond noise, beyond silence. And no one hears a single cry.
I believe that we need a way of making people hear again, and to do that we must make people feel uneasy, unsafe. Away from the Hollywood endings and day by day narrative imperative there needs to be a form of expression, a way of telling stories that is particular only to the theatre.
When you watch theatre, when you believe in it, you invest in it a part of your life; you credit it with a small but important part of yourself. A play is built of a hundred little volunteered hours, it is a rift in the space time continuum, a coming together of a hundred hours into one. This is why theatre can make you gasp; make the breath catch in your lungs for the life that you see onstage, because it is, in a small and immense way, a part of you and all around you. For some, theatre their first taste of a collective experience.
I believe that it is not history, but the future that we now need, in order that this generation might see themselves here, and nowhere else, and crucially, here with the ability to change what might happen. The future is a land often spoken of; however it is one of the only places that a news camera cannot go, and a place that film cannot lend the same breath of life or genuine place that the theatre can show. So I believe in Theatre.
I believe that theatre in Britain needs a movement, a movement built of new and old writers of all ages, genders and races, but one that decides, to visit schools, sixth forms, offices and universities, homeless shelters, prisons, hospitals and shopping centres, we need to take theatre out, draw people in, with Pies or Pints or promises of other kinds, because theatre speaks, it lives and dies and is so fragile a creation that you strive to listen to its voice. We must – as has never really wholly been done – bring theatre to The Masses, acknowledging that The Masses now are not a whole, but are united in only one thing, a lingering discontent. The modern malaise of never quite being, doing or saying, everything you think you should.
History has gone. No one listens to it anymore. Nor do people listen to the present, because it is still recorded, history the second that it happens. Instead I believe in Science Fiction. In Science Fiction, theatre could find an unfamiliar world that renders familiar things real to a new generation of people bereft.
I want to write a kind of play set 100 years in the future, in the middle of electromagnetic warfare, or the fall of America, the trial of some British war criminal, a future that really criticises religion, new-liberalism or the media, a future torn apart by war over the last supply of natural gas, or where China is the universal super power. I want to issue a new political theatre of such scope that it makes people gasp, cry, and stare wide-eyed at something truly engaging. I will write about love, and music, singing, that kiss that hurts so much because it can never happen. I will write about the worlds where people live because this one brings them too much pain.
I will do this.