The personal and the political seem to be colliding spectacularly in all sorts of ways at the moment.
Rapidly changing socio-economic and global factors mean that structures and institutions which once seemed solid and dependable are in flux creating an atmosphere of either uncertainty or opportunity, depending on your point of view.
This sense of insecurity – even where facts are concerned – is perfectly illustrated by the phrase ‘fake news’ this week being named word of the year by Collins Dictionary because of its “ubiquitous presence” over the past 12 months. Apparently usage of the term has increased by 365 per cent since 2016.
Art, in all its forms, has often reflected back to society these shifts – part of its purpose is to attempt to make sense of the world we live in and humanity’s place in it, but rarely have the shifts been so seismic. The past couple of years have certainly given the art world plenty of material to work with and it is good to see that those in the creative industries are not shying away from confronting the issues of our age. There are a few examples in our region which spring to mind.
This weekend West Yorkshire Playhouse is presenting a specially commissioned youth production, Zoetrope by Rebecca Manley, which is a timely exploration of our young people’s mental health and their experience of the overstretched system that is struggling to provide them with the help they need. Next week Bradford’s Theatre of the Mill will be hosting The Truth to Power Cafe. Originally developed by the Soho Theatre in London, it is a perfect example of theatre’s potential to effect radical change. An investigation into the power of free speech, it is theatre at its most pared-back and direct, providing a forum in which ordinary people can speak out. It allows participants of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs five minutes to speak in front of a live audience by addressing the question – ‘who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ Coming to the Civic Barnsley, also next week, is the part-verbatim, part-scripted immersive show What Once Was Ours about young people’s attitudes to Brexit, developed from interviews with 200 teenagers, too young to vote in the Referendum, from two Remain and two Leave areas of the country.
Democracy appears to be under threat, the patriarchy seems to be having a bit of a wobble – we are living through an interesting period. One of the few things that remains certain is that we can rely on artists to explore and record this moment in time.