You are on page 1of 3


A Note in Support of Funding for Big Brum Theatre-in-Education

Company (8 3 20 14)
I need to say something serious. In a short space I have to condense ideas and
jump over elucidations. What I argue here I have argued more thoroughly
elsewhere. The drama Big Brum brings to the young is unique. It does not deal
with the issues of drugs, smoking, bullying, self-harming, carrying knives and so
on. Its plays involve all these issues (you cant deal with contemporary society
without encountering them) but they are incidental to its main purpose: how to
be a human being. In trying to deal with issues without also doing this you
distort morality. You say what is bad without defining what good is. If you do
not define good then, even apart from social and religious persuasion, the
sheer exuberance, need to experiment and recklessness of youth will brush aside
your definition of bad. Unfortunately human beings do not agree on what a
good human being is. In the end the young may do what you recommend, but
not because of anything you have said. You cant make cogent rules or even laws
to define good because good is a matter of practice based on good
inclinations or, when the difference between being inhuman and humanness is
understood, an ardent conviction. Saying it in a scientific age seems odd, but it is
true: morality is acquired only through the imagination. It depends on being able
to enter other peoples subjective selves. No scientific instrument (in spite of
brain scans) can do that. It requires an act of dramatization. You have to put
yourself not just in the other persons situation. You put yourself in their mind to
know how they see their situation. You have to enter their reality. We are human
because we can do that. Being human is always a cultural, shared, creation. You
can be schooled, clever, scientific, a leader, a follower (all of which can be good
or very bad) but being a good human being depends on your imaginations
ability to dramatise reality. Even this isnt enough. Drama is the most public of
cultural activities. Because if you can enter other peoples subjectivity they can
enter yours. Drama would be an unbearably intense experience, we would
become the naked truth, if we didnt practice it under the formal guise of play.
The play is the entry into human reality.
If you look closely enough into someone elses problem you will find your own
problem. Each of us has our own unique problem but all of them are formed in
the same sensate human plasma that often compounds itself as it struggles with
its own confusions to unravel itself. This is only to say again: nothing human is
inhuman to us unless social-and-cultural distortions mislead us. This is why we
must dramatise ourselves -- because drama is based on the basic structure of
humanness: the ability to enter the others subjectivity. In the most nave way
the person who is the actor shares, by playing a character, that characters
subjectivity which seems unreal until we realise that that fictive character is
sharing the actors real subjectivity. But the spectator is also brought into this
exchange the play becomes the spectators reality, with all its moral
imperatives, because it is fiction. This is more than a childs theory of other
minds because it is entering objectively (not theoretically) into the reality all
minds share. Drama repeats the way in which each of us creates dramatizes -ourself. As it does this in a formal play-setting that engages the objective worlds
crises and confusions, it brings that world home to the self. By entering the
profoundest resources of the self, drama arrives at society in its most abstract
and complete form.
As, in this way, drama is inherent in the human condition, then to create drama
you must meet its young audiences needs. Big Brum must consciously develop

the structures and means of drama in terms of the logic of drama itself, and not
just in, for example, those of the latest technology or advertisers fad. I dont
know of any other drama group, for young people or adults, that does this as
consistently as Big Brum. To be blunt, most other groups do the opposite. Other
TiE groups that might have done it have been closed down. Big Brum is now
unique. But doing this is not the most important thing about Big Brum.
Drama exists in the political, technological, economic world. The world is
changing with unprecedented speed. The neo-liberal economy has created a
new society. The change is radical and fundamental. The economic
consequences are severe and obvious and no economist has found a permanent
solution. But the cultural consequences of the economic crisis are more severe
and there can be no quick solution to them. This is because the cultural
consequences are now being instilled into the minds of children and will go with
them into later life. The economy can recover only by selling and as the situation
is knife-edge everything must be made for a quick sale. It must appear valuable
but be cheap, appear durable but quickly wear out and need replacing, and
above all appear to be entertaining. In the last two decades theatre has
changed. I have spent my life in theatre but I have seen nothing like this. It has
become tawdry. It is fatigued by its own frenzy. It does not deal with our social,
political or private problems (which drama would never separate anyway)
because they are too new and complex. It has lost the means and skills to deal
with them. Instead, simply to survive, it serves the purposes of the market. But
the Athenians created drama to protect themselves from the market. Athens was
a great trading centre but it was new and forced to be innovative and the
astonishment it felt at its own splendour made it creative. It created drama, its
culture in general, to protect itself from the purposes of the market. Compared to
that our own frantic activity is hysterical and we sell ourselves cheap. The
structures of drama serve the creation of humanness. This was the imperative of
all Greek culture. It became the basis of the Western Culture that now
increasingly stretches out to become the world market. Perhaps drama will
recover its own purpose but that will take time. Children have no time, far less
time than adults, they cant wait because childhood passes so soon. Yet childhood
is the foundation of later society.
So there is a conflict. To recover the economy must turn society into a market
place. This debases the culture that is based on the economy. And civilization
developed by separating these two values. It separated the autonomy of culture
from the mechanism of evolution. Today children live under the market and are
constantly bullied and bellowed at by its salesman and admen . The market will
live in them as they grow. This is Big Brums real importance it protects and
fosters its young audiences humanness. Whatever you think of my evaluation of
Big Brum, you must admit it is unique and its survival a wonder. It will seem an
exaggeration to relate a little company, and the events in a few schoolrooms, to
the huge historical dilemma I have described and to see in it signs of hope and
recovery. Shoudnt I be more modest? No. Its not even that Big Brums influence
increases internationally though that is true. It is that the dynamics of culture
are unpredictable and we cannot control the connections that they will make. I
am not being immodest because no one can really say what is happening in the
minds of children today as they enter the reality of an age that will be without
precedent. But I can say that abandoning Big Brum would make a scar on these
children that would later become a wound. I do not think that drama teaches
but it does educate, and it is the profoundest of all educations. That is the issue.