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Theatre Uncut

So, about five minutes after I find myself fuming with rage at general government cuts, I also find myself involved in a project which deals very specifically with one section of government cuts – the arts.

I’m lighting designer on a series of short plays being performed at the Southwark Playhouse Vaults in mid-March, and while I never use my blog to promote anything I’m working on unless I’m 100% confident it’s going to be brilliant (witness my stunning silence on mnnnnnmn and the noted absence of any comment on mmmnmmmmm) I honestly think that this is a Good Thing at a time when Good Things are increasingly finding it hard to do anything worth the name.

The plays are about – as you might guess – the government arts cuts, and I’m not going to attempt herein to replicate what they will talk about because, frankly, that might undermine the point of going to see it for yourself.  No, my role here is strictly lighting, and there are a number of lighting suppliers and departments – one in particular – who will be getting grovelling phonecalls from me at the start of the coming week which begins with ‘so, how do you feel about contributing to a good cause…?’ before building up to the wish list.

What I will say is what I always say whenever I have the conversation about arts cuts.  We take very little from the country’s budget and we contribute a lot.  Not just fiscally – and yes, the arts do contribute money, tourism and prestige in bucket loads – but, dangerous word of the moment, spiritually.  Arts – be they books, films, plays, galleries, music, dance, sculpture, you name it – are how a society grow.  We can learn facts and figures, arguments and debates, but the arts teach us something different, which you can’t get from BBC News or a textbook on society.  They teach us to share the feelings behind the arguments, to think the thoughts of strangers, to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and take in a sharp draw of frightened breath when they draw in a frightened breath.  They question not just who, and what, and where, but why and what next, and what went before and whether we should believe it.  They invite us, for just a short while, to forget who and what we are, and to be something else entirely – not to think as academics do, not to contemplate an intellectual abstract – but to feel for a moment passions and terrors and delights, that are not your own, which may, in fact, be entirely alien to your nature; but which are true feelings none-the-less, though you cannot say why.

Tell me that’s not worth saving.