Walking the Tightrope: The Tension Between Art and Politics

Walking the Tightrope was created as a response to the cancellation of three high profile cultural events last summer. Writers were invited to react to these events in whichever way they chose, leading the pieces to cover the subjects of boycott, 'dirty' funding, offensive art, protest, political correctness and censorship, largely in the name of Freedom of Speech. Eight short pieces are presented in Walking the Tightrope, all of which are well-selected to provide a good balance in both viewpoint and theatrical style.

As a show created to initiate, encourage and force conversation on issues that govern what we are able to see on stage and how we see it, it is undoubtedly a success.

As pieces written to initiate conversation, the plays often took the form of a duologue between two opposing and equally valid viewpoints, such as in Mark Ravenhill's What Are We Going to do About Harry?, which questions positive discrimination in the arts and funding battles.

Exhibit A by Neil LaBute, possibly the most provocative play of the set, gives Syrus Lowe an opportunity to show off a detailed physicality, while revealing his character's sinister and deeply disturbing personality. The play dares the audience to tell him where the limits of 'art' are through a series of acts so explicit that some members of the audience were moved to shout objections at the stage mid-performance.

Please Forgive Us Whoever You Are challenges the theatre programmers who are seen by writer Ryan Craig as bowing too easily to public pressure. If "[they] commission this sh*t; [they] should least defend it".

There is plenty of support for the actors who find themselves involved in a project that is deemed controversial. A young actress auditions for the new cast of the cancelled Exhibit B in Gbolahan Obisesan's Re:Exhibit and the cast of the Israeli hip hop musical which was closed down at the Fringe last year are defended by a very articulate and knowledgeable teenager in Tim Fountain's Beyond the Fringe. The pieces themselves are knitted together with sound bites of real conversations between the actors and creative team, enabling them to add their own response to these topics in a show which otherwise puts the voice of the writer first.

Crucial to the objective of the show was a thirty minute panel discussion that allows the audience to respond to the issues which have been raised on stage, using the plays as a springboard. This was sensitively led by the production's director, Cressida Brown. The panellists change each day and the show draws an intelligent and well-informed audience who share valid and reasonable opinions.

As a show created to initiate, encourage and force conversation on issues that govern what we are able to see on stage and how we see it, it is undoubtedly a success. In addition to its political motivations, these are well-written plays, excellently performed by a superb cast.  

Reviews by Cara Ballingall

C venues - C nova

Inglorious Insinuations of Insanity

★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Free for All

★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

If Only Diana Were Queer

★★
C venues - C nova

Two Thirds

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Much Further Out Than You Thought

★★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

World premiere of explosive political short plays by writers including Caryl Churchill, Neil LaBute and Timberlake Wertenbaker, followed by energetic post-show audience discussions with stellar panels exploring freedom of expression in the UK arts today. 'Superb ... An incredibly important production' ***** (TheMetropolist.com). 'Bravo! ... Truly entertains while challenging, and that is no mean feat!' (HuffingtonPost.co.uk).

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