Thursday, 14 April 2011

Community Matters

In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, many buildings have been damaged. This is nothing compared with lives lost, but it still has a big effect on the civic community. People identify with buildings; be they churches, cinemas, schools or theatres.

Children are sharing schools; they are taking it in turns to use the classrooms and facilities, causing great disruption to the parents who have to drop them off and collect them at odd times, and putting added pressure on public transport already coping with infrastructure challenges, but at least education (and some semblance of normality) is being continued. Iconic buildings such as cathedrals and art galleries must be demolished or rebuilt as they are structurally unsound.

The Christchurch Repertory Theatre, where I performed in a prodction of  Emma in 1998 
Dramatic socities have to cancel their productions as the sets are damaged, the theatres condemned, and, in a couple of horrific cases, the actors are dead. There is hardly a person in Arrowtown who doesn't know someone affected by the earthquake. Local schools are innundated with Christchurch refugees; anyone with family and friends in Canterbury has had extra visitors, and we all share their grief and anguish.

The day the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck, I had a rehearsal planned for the evening. I am directing a play for the Arrowtown Entertainers who perform annually at the Arrowtown Autumn Festival. Usually I don't allow the outside world to intrude on the rehearsal space (check your daily woes at the door; we are here to work), but looking at the glum faces around me and feeling shaken myself, I knew I had to address the situation.

Putting all this into perspective, you have to wonder - does theatre really matter? I think so. As humans we draw strength from the support of our neighbours and community. Theatre is community by its very nature; individuals working together to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. I believe that theatre and the arts in general raise us to another level. And community spirit is clearly evident in local theatre productions.

Meanwhile in Britain, David Cameron's party are busy slashing the art's budget. There have been a few howls of indignation from the left wing press and the thespians themselves, but mainly this has passed under the bridge with barely a ripple. I was disappointed, but not suprised. After all, what else would you expect from a party that infamously declared, "There's no such thing as society"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'There's no such thing as society' was Thatcher. With Dave it's all 'Big Society'. Cynics say this is asking people to step in to take over where services are being cut. On the Arts' budget it's hard to defend this when so many other budgets are being slashed as well. Arts are seen as something that are middle class and can take care of themselves. The bigger gripes that are getting the protestors out are the cuts to more mainstream public services.