Who Has The Right To Tell Stories?
I'm about to engage on a project with a large group of refugees for Leeds Playhouse and the Young Vic and, before I could agree to it, I had to ask myself whether I was the right person to be involved in this project.
Now the first thing to say is to ask what the function of telling a story like this might even be. The act of theatre is always a rebellion against something. It's function is to usher in the new; to challenge the status quo; to get the audience to think about their place in their community, in their society, their behaviour. To leave with a broader perspective about their complicity in oppression whither it be emotional, pyshcological or financial. So who should be telling these stories?
For me the reason it is inappropiate for some people to tell stories and not others is because we cannot have the oppressors telling the stories of the oppressed. It's as simple as that. That should be the first or several litmus test for all narrative and whether or not they should be allowed to do so.
The second version to this is that the netural craftsperson, who is not the oppressed nor the oppressor, works in collaboration with the oppressed to tell their story.
The third is that someone that identifies with the oppressors that has reached enlightenment calls out people like themselves by confessing their own behaviour.
What we cannot have is a group of oppressors neutrally and intellectually dismantling the subject of their behaviour without risking themselves. It is not useful. It changes nothing if they're not prepared to implode with the action of story telling.
The end game must be the desecration of the oppressors. My role in the telling of this specific project is the neutral crafting a story for the oppressed to speak. That is how I can be useful in challenging the establishment and ushering in the new.