Yvette Hud­dle­ston

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - 2/STAGE -

This week there were two pretty heart­warm­ing and pos­i­tive sto­ries which high­light the way in which the arts can make such a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to­wards bridg­ing gaps in un­der­stand­ing and en­cour­ag­ing de­bate.

At the Na­tional The­atre on Tues­day a very spe­cial show opened. En­ti­tled My Coun­try: A

Work in Progress it is the brain­child of the NT’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Ru­fus Nor­ris. In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the Brexit vote last June, up­set by the out­come and dis­mayed at the pre­vail­ing di­vi­sive mood, Nor­ris got in touch with ten writers and di­rec­tors from all over the coun­try – in­clud­ing Rhi­an­non White, co-artis­tic di­rec­tor of Brad­ford­based po­lit­i­cal the­atre com­pany Com­mon Wealth – and asked them to record ex­tended in­ter­views with peo­ple, on both sides of the ar­gu­ment, about their feel­ings about the ref­er­en­dum vote. The re­sult­ing play, writ­ten with Carol Ann Duffy, aims to shed some light on how the coun­try has ar­rived at this point and try to shift peo­ple from their en­trenched, po­larised po­si­tions, con­vinced they are right and re­fus­ing to lis­ten to op­pos­ing views. In a piece in the Guardian White said that she hopes au­di­ences will “go in and lis­ten, with­out judg­ment, with a de­sire to un­der­stand.” Af­ter a short run at at the NT’s Dorf­man The­atre, the play moves to the Cit­i­zens The­atre in Glas­gow and then tours the coun­try.

Nearer to home the West York­shire Play­house is lead­ing the way in reach­ing out to those whose voices are un­heard. They have long been at the fore­front of work with older peo­ple – their Hey­days cre­ative pro­gramme for the over-55s has been go­ing for nearly thirty years and they in­tro­duced the world’s first de­men­tia friendly per­for­mance in 2014. On Mon­day the the­atre an­nounced that it had been awarded awarded £99,950 from Arts Coun­cil Eng­land Na­tional Lot­tery fund­ing to pro­duce a Fes­ti­val of The­atre and De­men­tia. The Fes­ti­val will be ex­plor­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing with de­men­tia, open­ing up dis­cus­sion and de­bate, chal­leng­ing stereo­types and pro­vid­ing cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties for older peo­ple whose lives are af­fected by de­men­tia, col­lab­o­rat­ing with them as cu­ra­tors and per­form­ers.

Lis­ten­ing to their ex­pe­ri­ences and cre­at­ing a fo­rum in which they can share those with oth­ers gives a clear mes­sage that their views are of value. It must be a pri­mary func­tion of the arts, es­pe­cially to­day, to aid com­mu­ni­ca­tion which leads to greater un­der­stand­ing be­tween dis­parate groups. It’s also cru­cial to give voice to those who are marginalised by main­stream so­ci­ety.

That way lies greater hu­man­ity – and har­mony.

The re­sult­ing play aims

to shed some light on how the coun­try has ar­rived at this point.

Culture, The York­shire Post, No.1 Leeds, 26 White­hall Road, Leeds LS1 1BE. To ad­ver­tise: Tracey Ball tel 0113 238 8987; [email protected] Ed­i­to­rial: Sarah Free­man tel 0113 238 8952; sarah.free­[email protected]

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