As Peter Brook once remarked, theatre is now, and always has been, in crisis. Whatever the nature of the continuing existential threat that Brook Identified the truth is that theatre in Ireland (as in many other parts of the world) is facing a sustained economic and ideological challenge that will change how we conceive of, create, and experience theatre.
I was in conversation recently with one of our leading theatre artists. The topic of the government’s impending national culture policy discussion document, culture2025, came up so I asked their opinion. They looked up from under lowered brows and uttered, in that tired contemptuous tone, a single word: “Instrumentalist”.
In Joss Whedon’s film, Serenity, the character River Tam is a psychic. She’s also a trained killer and very probably psychotic. She’s plagued by a memory she can’t quite get to the surface. In one of her many breakdowns she cries out to her brother: “It’s not mine. Its not mine and I shouldn’t have to carry it” Psychologically speaking the relationship between artists and the arts funding model in this country – and I suspect elsewhere – is pretty similar. The funding model with its power structures, bureaucracies and instrumental priorities is not mine, and I shouldn’d have to to carry it. And its driving us insane. In short the funding model does not support imagination and creativity. It defines it and constrains it. From a business point of view, it should be the other way round. In other words the funding model contradicts itself.