Monday, August 30, 2004

Hare today, Gone tomorrow?

Tonight, David Hare's new play 'Stuff Happens', opened at the National Theatre in London. About the Iraq war, its title is taken from Donald Rumsfeld's reponse to the looting of Baghdad: "Stuff happens... and it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."

The Guardian seems very excited about the work and sees a reignition of energy in the theatres in the recent spate of hastily-spat-out political plays like Guantanamo and Tim Robbins's Embedded.

With a preponderance of activist theatre hitting New York, timed to coincide with this week's Republican convention, and the opening of 'Stuff Happens' in London, it seems like a good time to think about the merits of mixing politics with theatre.

Personally, I find most political theatre unsatisfying. The kind of theatre I like is ambiguous, more full of questions than answers. Agitprop, it seems to me, debases the theatre, changes it from art into a stick.

However, that's my personal preference. Overall, I am heartened by these new shows. They say to me that people still -- shock! -- actually believe that theatre can make a difference.

I do too, of course. But not in the short-term, get-a-warmongering-president-out-of-office way.

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