Centre Stage: Political Theatre
It is often argued that art is a form of self-expression, a medium to communicate ideas, thoughts and frustrations. Plays are no exception; writers have for a long time expressed their critiques of the current government or simply politics in general.
One does not have to look far to see a play that is politically charged, Shakespeare is a great example, if not a pioneer in political theatre. Wrought with political messages, ‘Macbeth’ was ultimately the expression of the old adage-power corrupts.
Macbeth, an otherwise limp less man it can be argued, were it not for his ambition ( and his equally driven wife) gets a taste of power and is soon convinced to kill Duncan, the elderly king in an attempt to usurp the throne. Shakespeare through the character Duncan moreover, expressed King James’ belief in the divine right of kings, the reigning king at the time.
Both Macbeth and King Lear are examples of how Shakespeare used his work to explore the complexities of leadership whilst ‘Don’t shoot the clowns’, the play by Jo Wilding provides a great illustration of how the atrocities in Iraq prompted the creation of a politically stimulated play.
Political theatre is also present all over the world. In Kenya, the famed writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o was placed in jail after one of his most famous play translated as ‘I shall marry when I want’, criticised the dictatorship of former president Daniel Arap Moi. After his release, Ngugi went in to exile in America, returning only when Moi was no longer in power. His legacy is one that will echo for years to come in the Kenyan theatre world.
What exactly is the point of Political theatre? Indisputably, it is not an attempt to directly transform the voting polls, it is there to push the audience to consider another view point, and question what many are blindly accepting. It is no secret that a plays primary aim is to entertain hence things are often dramatized, but it is usually the metaphors and hidden messages that are craftily inserted that make for the most effective theatre.
Political theatre is not simply a series of plays about politics; allowing for various interpretations, it is a means to convey a certain message, however subtle, to an audience. Impartial to all other opinions; it is a statement of its creator.