A couple of years ago I had to end a business relationship with an old friend. Something I would rather not have done. However, it was necessary when I realised that that person’s company wasn’t a company. It was a legal fiction, necessary if he was to receive grants and commissions, it had no assets, no investors, and no long term plan. It did one thing (one set of tasks) and repeated it again and again – whenever it got a grant or a commission. Essentially this friend did one thing and hawked that skill around: they were a freelancer. Not a company. Not really. And this came as a shock to them.
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”.
Antoine O Flatharta is – in my opinion – one of the greatest, and most under-acknowledged Irish playwrights. He is the only one whose plays I would go to see again and again (five times in the case of Silverlands). He wrote a beautiful play for TEAM many years ago called Dreamwalker. I won’t go into the details of the plot but at the end the protagonist gives this great speech about what he learned living with a tribe. The tribe believed that the borders of their land marked the end of the world. They would elect (or select, I can’t remember which) a person to walk beyond the borders into the non world. Their job was to travel the non world and dream the dreams of the tribe. On their return they would share the stories of their dream travels, describing what lay beyond the borders of the known. In doing this the dreams were made real, and the borders of the tribe, the borders of the known world expanded. These people were called Dream walkers. It fascinates me how much of the hard, rational language of business is built on mythic stories just like this.
Continue reading Dreamwalkers, Boundary Scanning and Antoine O Flatharta