The Seeing Place

3000 year old theatre - El Jem Tunisia
3000 year old theatre – El Jem Tunisia

I took this photograph while exploring Tunisia last year.

These remains are left open and unprotected. No fence, guard or gates to stop anyone with a mind to from helping themselves to a lump of two of it.

I was touched by the echoes of this place, the palpable sense of audiences in the still clearly defined terraces, entrances and exits through the crumbling arches to the stage.

While there, it struck me that one of the first thing our species does when settling is to define a performance space, a theatre. A ‘seeing place’ (from the Greek theatron)- the place we go to see the truth. It’s right up there on our list of priorities along with sanitation and shelter. Another example of this is The Good Chance Theatre in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais. At the time of writing, the camp is a symptom of appalling international abdication of responsibly and absence of compassion during a time of the largest worldwide migration of populations since the second world war.

I saw an interview with one afghan refugee there. When asked what he thought of the theatre in the camp when there were so few resources he replied: ‘I like coming here. It means I can live, not just survive’.

We all need this.

‘A seeing place where we go to see the truth’ is becoming a rarer thing, as are the practitioners who are equipped with the competence to be able to turn up and tell the truth at the service of whatever story is being told.

And as our offering of a diet of increasingly processed and mediated performance, in which nothing actually happens to anyone, least of all the audience becomes accepted as the norm and what passes for ‘good theatre’, I am redoubling my efforts to share work in which we show up and tell the truth.

After we returned there was a massacre of tourists and locals in an appalling terror attack in the same precinct in which we had been staying a week before. And, at the time of writing a year later in the Summer of 2016, the attacks have continued around world, the fear grows, and we continue to endorse sending planes to drop their bombs, many of the victims of which are the innocent, in our literally nonsensical ´war against terror´ in which their can be no victors..

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