You know when you care about something so much that you actually lose the ability to express yourself calmly and rationally and all you can do is talk too loud and start to cry and write sentences that are far too long for anyone to properly comprehend? Yes. That.
For me, the thing I care about is theatre.
I care so much about theatre, not just for the selfish fact that I’m about to graduate from drama school and I’d love someone to employ me when I leave, but for what theatre does.
Theatre tells incredible stories, lets you visit new lands and meet extraordinary characters.
Theatre gives you something to look forward to, and something to reminisce about.
Theatre takes you on a journey and lets you explore every facet of human life from the comfort of a velvety chair with a glass of wine in hand!
But most of all, theatre lets you experience this with a room full of people- Wow, I miss the buzz and hush and thrill of sitting in a room full of strangers.
Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is who is in that room…
Often, when I go to the theatre, I look around to see a room full of people much older than me. Sure, there are always a few other students squished up in the back rows or tucked in behind pillars, but for the most part the demographic is somewhat middle aged and middle class. And if it’s young, it’s young but highly “theatrery”. You know the type, the liberal twenty-somethings with round glasses and loud cardigans – I include myself in this bracket!
Of course, the audience I have described is important and necessary for the industry to thrive, but I can’t help thinking that theatre is for more than those who are already privileged. Theatre is not just for people who can afford a £50 ticket for a night out. Theatre shouldn’t be reserved for those who were taught by their parents how to attend. We, the round glassesed, loud cardigan wearing, young, must make sure we don’t form our own exclusive club. Theatre is about stories and feelings, not about competitive intellect or exclusivity.
As a child, before I started shopping in charity shops for fashion (I had to out of necessity) theatre meant a huge amount to me. School plays, theatre trips (and the wonderful Lesley Ford) exposed me to the joys of the arts whilst also teaching me self-discipline, to strive for high standards, and to enjoy stories and storytelling. This passion fuelled me through what turned out to be some pretty tricky teenage years. My love for the arts stayed constant, but I felt overlooked by the city I grew up in. Unless you had the money to plough into extra-curricular theatre school and parents who had the spare time and money to take you to see shows, there seemed to be no way to partake in the arts. I am determined that fewer young people will feel this way in the future.
Covid has, in a way, made theatre more accessible. There is so much content now available online and lots of free arts programmes designed to help people engage throughout lockdown. It is very important that the arts industry doesn’t forget this was possible. For young people and people from low-income families to access the arts and make the incredible contributions that they do, it must remain accessible. It must endeavour to continue with outreach and to invest in diversifying audiences. Theatre is for everyone and we must find ways to make that not just a philosophy, but a reality.