By Lloyd Booth-Shankley
There are few moments in an artist’s life where they come across a painting, a piece of theatre, a song or even something they see on the street that catches their eye that makes them question the way they see the world. It’s hard for me to put into words what I thought of The Box because I walked out of the room with more questions than answers. I did a workshop with Steve Lambert the day before at the Lakeside Theatre and he talked to us about his work. One of things that stood out to me was what he said about the Theatre of Cruelty; an idea created by Artaud that when the plague hits, it tears off all the pretence and all the materialism and simply shows you who they are; the raw humanity.
Steve Lambert’s philosophy and his approach to art was definitely very present in his work and in his company’s work. I don’t want to give too many spoilers away in case people want to see the production, but the audience must be involved, emotionally, from the beginning. You walk into the room and all you see is a cage in the space and you’re given a choice as to whether or not you’d like to sit in the auditorium in the traditional proscenium style or if you’d like to stand around the cage and observe. The thing that really hit me when I walked in was that it was a zoo. A cage. There was an animal in a cage and this animal might be a rabid creature. If you unlock the gate he could cause chaos, we don’t know. But what it was doing was horrible. Petrifying. Nauseating. Yet necessary for us to behold.
I spoke to many people after the show and I think they felt annoyed; some by the noise, some by the style, some tortured and some exploited. I don’t think it was Badac’s intentions to teach (and certainly not to entertain) but I felt in myself that I walked away knowing both more and less about the human condition. It’s not ‘nice theatre’. It’s not subtle. It doesn’t have huge tones of subtext. It isn’t what we’re accustomed to on a Drama degree. This isn’t Ibsen or Chekhov – it’s more magnetic. It drew me in and made me really think. No subtext, no hindsight, no further reading needed to understand the world of the piece – it was just there in the flesh.
I didn’t clap at the end and I’ve always been raised to clap at the end of every play. But that wasn’t theatre for me. It was something more. It was necessary and I’m grateful for it but I hope to never see it again – in the purist sense.
If anyone has the chance to see any of Badac Theatre’s work, I believe they’re trying to get funding to create a piece on Refugees. I’d encourage you to see it because their theatre creates questions. It’s there as a trigger to form a dialogue and for us to talk about and question what is going on in our world:
What makes us angry? What is wrong with the world? What makes us what want to scream?
To say we’re there to entertain is a very one dimensional way of seeing it. We’re there to explore: Who are we? What are we? What is this world?
It’s inspired me to want to do more. It’s made me want to create a dialogue about things that make ME angry. It’s made me want to evaluate how and why I create work. Not for my own gain, but for those who have experienced what it is we’re trying to emulate.
I don’t think that we will ever know how successful an event like The Box is because success isn’t what’s important. It’s the trigger for debate. We’re talking about it, aren’t we? Then it did its job. But for myself, I took away a great many things from a truly necessary experience.
Photo credit: ‘The Box’ by Badac Theatre Company. Sourced from http://lakesidetheatre.org.uk/events/the-box/
By Steve Lambert
The Badac Theatre Company