Roxanne Carney is producing Jamal Harewood’s critically acclaimed and controvercial The Privileged. She talks to us about the most surprising thing to happen at one of the performances.
I’ve seen this performance four times and I honestly can’t watch it anymore. This is an ugly piece. It’s ugly in its instructions. It’s ugly in its form. It’s ugly in its relationship with the performer and audience. You’re a party to this piece whether you choose to sit down or stand up and leave. As someone who is a part of the team to The Privileged, it’s been very hard not to sway the performance towards the direction I am used to. With that in mind, I’ve had to almost remove myself from any decision making and comments within the performance…this made me become something I’ve always tried to steer clear of – an enabler. I chose the side of the oppressor by sitting on the fence.
At this point I’m in conflict. Part of me feels that this is just a performance and I should just shake off whatever negative vibes I feel because at the end of the day, I’m just doing my job. Then the other part of me is in conflict with what I’ve just said.
Activism is an exciting and dangerous concept. It’s not always about the marches or being the loudest one in the playground; it’s often the smallest ones that cause the most excitement. Like, when someone attempts to push in the queue at Thorpe Park and you give a stern look making them back away.
This everyday light hearted activism is seen as acceptable. I chose to glare at the children that wanted to jump ahead at Nemesis Inferno. I chose to stick up for myself and fellow thrill seekers. I chose to acknowledge that I wanted change. So why is it that, when choice is given to us within a theatre space – we often find ourselves as the person sitting on the fence?
In the last performance I decided to watch, a row between two people broke out and it was to do with their racial presence that had been highlighted by the events of this piece. A guy who was white and from America stated that he was uncomfortable continuing with the piece, “especially with what is going on back home.” A guy who was British and Asian didn’t take too kindly to this. “It’s just a performance. How could this piece NOT be about race? Did you not see the performer’s name? He’s called Jamal Harewood. That is not a white person’s name.”
And just like that…the piece was totally ignored. Almost all 40 of us, sat and watched this uncomfortable discussion of race unfold because we didn’t know what to do. This could be because we wanted to see the performance all the way through and to “not fuck it up for the performer” or because we still don’t know how to talk about race. I’m still unsure.