Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Theatre Thoughts: Can Art Show The Way Forward?

or, Why We Need Shakespeare and Disney Movies

It's a crazy world at the moment. Every day it seems that there is something new and terrible for the newsreaders to report. I don't know whether there's always been this much going on and I've just not noticed, or whether there genuinely is more news around at the moment, but either way it can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do about it, whether I can do anything about it. But I believe, as naive as it sounds, that hope, understanding and love are the way forward, and this is why I believe Shakespeare and Disney movies can show us that way.

Shakespeare

Image Source: theshakespeareblog.com

My love for Shakespeare is not a secret. I know that the language can seem obscure, and that his work can be seen as elitist and irrelevant. But I would argue that he has never been irrelevant, and even less so now.

Shakespeare's language may appear opaque, but his characters tell us the truth of humanity and human nature. His plays dissect the very truth of what it is to be human in all of its messy beauty, and presents it as art, the thing that I believe can unite across seeming boundaries. You don't need to understand art to appreciate it, and you don't need to love it to take the messages away from it.

His work is as urgent now as it was when it was first written, and if you don't believe me, please watch this performance of one of the most incredible speeches ever written:


The stories and messages cross boundaries, and are as apropos in England as they are in Russia, or Africa, or South America. The Globe Theatre launched an amazing project several years ago to prove the truth of this. The cast list may call for kings, queens and knights, but the people behind these titles are instantly recognisable for the flawed and frustrating humans they are. And we are all humans, aren't we?

It is my belief that if we start recognising the essential truth of humanity, we may become a little more accepting of one another. It is also my belief that the stories committed to history by Shakespeare can provide a means for theatre to do this.

Disney
Image Source: thewaltdisneycompany.com

I know, I know. Disney is a capitalist, consumerist conglomerate, brainwashing millions of people into buying into a heteronormative, whitewashed, warped reality. But, I recognise this and I love it, in spite of its faults.

I love Disney because, especially in recent years, we have been presented with strong, sassy women (Tiana, Ana, Dory...) who may fall for men, but do so on their own terms and not as a means to a socially acceptable end. I love Disney because the heroes and heroines are presented with seemingly insurmountable odds, plunged into unacceptable conditions and yet still retain an essential goodness and inner beauty, managing to sing happily to animals and cook a three course meal whether they have been chased out of their homes, transported into an alternative universe, or turned into a frog. I hope I would have the strength of mind, fortitude and courage to face those situations with the same amount of sunshine as those girls do.

Image Source: pinterest.com

Disney movies, for me, have always been my escape when the world seems dark, scary and full of hate. They show me that, despite how bleak things may seem, hope and love always triumph over evil and distrust. I learned, through Disney, to always greet the world with a smile, because everyone is fighting a battle, no matter how many tweety-birds they're singing to. And Disney movies give me hope for hope itself; it will triumph, there will be a happy ending; and if you're not happy, it just means that it's not the end yet.

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