Theatre and Me… by Kate Harwood

Outside the Box artist, Adam Welsh, has been hosting weekly sessions with people from the local Camden community to talk about the future of theatre and the radical changes the industry needs to be more inclusive and relevant.

In this blog post, Camden local resident Kate Harwood shares her story and insight into the future of theatre.

Adam Welsh is one of our Outside the Box commissioned artists. You can see the end of result, No Future, from April 13-17. Click here to book your pay-what-you-can ticket.

I feel really torn about ‘Theatre’. Most people think of what I call the ‘top end’ of theatre – plays and musicals in the West End. I can’t deny that a performance at say the National Theatre can be thought provoking and immersive but I have always been aware of the disparity between those able to afford the ticket prices and those who could and would enjoy it. I feel that it’s the middle classes, or educated classes, who actually access it and my worry has always been, from when I was young, that somehow it has to involve everyone.

But plays and performances about real life experiences and struggles have always appealed to me more. When I was in my twenties (a long time ago) it was called AgitProp theatre. Is there another name now?

This intergenerational, interactive way of doing theatre has been the basis of some amazing weekly discussions that both myself and my friend Jessica have been involved in during lockdown. These enlightening, inspirational hours were organised by Adam Welsh and Daniel Fulvio (CPT’s Community Engagement Manager) based around the idea of “No Future”. I had no idea how important and stimulating our 4 way sessions would become for me. Together we have debated and discussed politics, inequality, rights, dancing and the role of theatre among many other things. I feel that this could be a blueprint for future theatre, where together with local communities, honest conversations are had about what is important to them and this then informs what is produced on stage.

In one particular session, I shared a rather dispiriting experience I had at the theatre. My husband had recently died and a friend asked if I would like to go and see her husband’s play at a local pub. I walked into a pub full of families and couples and stood at the edge with a glass of wine wondering why I was there. Sitting in the small audience I tried to start a conversation with the person next to me. It didn’t last long. And at the interval, I thought, right, I’ll go to the loo and that way I don’t have to watch all these people enjoying themselves. I remember running away from that pub with tears in my eyes vowing that I would never go to the theatre on my own again. And I haven’t!

In the future, theatre experiences, I believe, need to be inclusive, involving and sharing. CPT has been good at this and I hope that the refurbishment will still include that intimate, communal space to discuss and debate events. The role of Community theatre seems even more relevant at present.

Our Saturday Lockdown sessions have, for me (and I think the others involved ), given me hope for new ways of playwriting, for real involvement and for open and honest discussion about everything. From small beginnings grow many exciting things!