Dennis Kelly: “The Quest for Truth” 1

If you read Dennis Kelly’s speech that I posted yesterday, then this is by way of a response. Essentially I believe he right.The following extract says so much about the theatre we make and how we make it:

We don’t make our minds up using facts or arguments, we use facts and arguments to support what we have already decided is true.We bend and squeeze reality into a shape that supports what we feel. It is our feelings that rule us, not our minds. And this is where theatre has its impact. Theatre lies in emotion; it is an emotional medium, not really an intellectual one. But how does a playwright reconcile the quest for truth with an understanding that facts and arguments are essentially untrustworthy and that debate is something lawyers use to send people to jail regardless of whether they guilty or innocent? Well, perhaps they don’t. Perhaps they just say fuck it, this is what I feel, and they’re just honest about that. Theatre is essentially, at it’s best, a lone voice standing up in a darkened room and saying ‘I think this’. They’re not necessarily saying this is what’s right, or you should think this or this is what we should do, they’re saying ‘I think this. Does anyone else think the same?’

He goes on to talk about how theatre should come from a ‘desire to change things, from a belief in the power of theatre that is bigger than writers, directors, artistic directors and dramaturges, that it belongs to all of us and is never to be taken for granted‘ and I applaud him loudly for it. He isn’t really saying that political theatre is useless, just that we need to frame in such a way that we accept that ‘theatre lies in emotion; it is an emotional medium, not really an intellectual one‘ and that ‘theatre is essentially, at it’s best, a lone voice standing up in a darkened room and saying ‘I think this…….does anyone else feel the same?”.

Let me give you an example of what I (and I think, Kelly) sees as theatre with a voice, theatre that challenges, theatre that reflects the truth and in itself is a ‘quest for truth’, the latest offering by DV8 and Lloyd Newson, Can We Talk About This? The piece is a verbatim theatre work investigating the interrelated issues of freedom of speech, multiculturalism and Islam as manifest in Western democracies. It has received astounding reviews:

Every so often, a performance comes along that not only reconfigures the limits of the form, but also redefines and rearticulates how we see the world… Without a doubt, it is one of the most important works of our age. Go!

Time Out Sydney

Click the image above to watch excerpts.

ABC Radio Interview with Lloyd Newson, founder of DV8

This is political theatre at it’s very best and most powerful. It is most definitely saying “I think this.….does anyone else feel the same?”. Can We Talk About This was in Hong Kong last year (and I missed it, unbelievably) but everyone I know who saw it, spoke about it in the most rapturous way. Even more so those who had never heard of DV8. It was clearly powerful and spoke with emotion to the audience. It comes as no surprise really. Newson insists in keeping his works at once informative and thought-provoking and this has been one of the defining traits of DV8. In fact, while he often displays a readiness to introduce a touch of hyperreality into his works, the eclectic stylist is nonetheless better known for his preference for content over ‘aesthetics and prettiness’. He clarifies:

I want to make theatre work because I don’t want to just make decorative dance pieces – they are like chocolate. They’re very nice at the time you eat it, but not very substantive in terms of [generating] brain power.


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