“Post-truth”, the word of the year 2016, was actually coined by playwright Steve Tesich back in 1992, so it’s a fitting and timely subject for this year’s TFTV verbatim trio of political plays around a theme. Post-truth finds its home in our political climate, the mainstream news and the social media revolution, it has a hand and a root in most aspects of our lives and so these three plays find themselves in very different realms.
The first play Square One does an excellent, stylish job of presenting the perils of social media; views from all sides are presented and channelled with striking imagery thanks to the interplay between clever writing and excellently thought through set and movement. But it never really builds on from there and so when we reach the high energy, and don’t get me wrong very well performed, climax there is no emotion to back it up and no argument presented. But it must be said that the team behind the opening play really thought about what post-truth would mean to their audience and actually came closest to making me think about my own habits.
The next piece Planet B falls into a similar trap with a wonderful landfill aesthetic tieing in with a very pleasing visual metaphor of different coloured pringles cans representing the current political parties but it ends up being disappointingly tame. To be fair to the team behind this piece, tackling the post-truth mentality surrounding climate change was a brave way to go and a really interesting idea, but given their audience, it feels less political and more vindicative. Promise was shown in tackling the issue of meat-eating and the environment but the baffling presentation of it benefitting the education system to teach children to eat meat rather than presenting a more personal battle between the individual’s convenience would have made both more sense and impact. Especially as the harm done to the environment through meat-eating is very much still a CO2 issue and not at all to do with, as positted, “cows farting”.
Finally, Mr Saxon’s Excellently English Evening Of Entertainment, a vastly different and yet, unfortunately, the same cabaret-style piece. It was all singing, all dancing, well crafted, fantastically funny and just kind of pointless. I genuinely laughed the whole way through and I loved the design and the world created drew me in completely. But I actually don’t think I know a single person who would be challenged by the what it presented, well not one I could ever get into a verbatim theatre show at the very least. Much as I was impressed with the craftsmanship, this felt like such a missed opportunity; I was waiting to be mid-laugh and hit with a horrible reminder of where complacency and humour in the face of these issues get you.
These were three wonderful bits of theatre, but being about politics doesn’t make any of them political. Political theatre should aim to change the minds of those who watch it or even be a call to arms to act on what you already know. I am no more enlightened about what areas of the post-truth world may be taking me, nor have I been presented with another option to live my life. This felt like theatre created for moments and not for a message and no matter how good these moments were I’m still a bit disappointed.
Photo Credit: TFTV Presents: Believe, Facebook