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May Day (May Day)

Tue, 01/05/2012

 As I am writing Occupy London are busy occupying the Stock Exchange. Its May Day, labour day. There have been demonstrations all over Europe today as people protest about lack of work, austerity measures and lack of confidence in their leaders, while governments continue to prop up corrupt banking systems. This May Day, action is a sign of distress but in a positive manner, shouting with action and taking to the streets. Tents have become a symbol of power and freedom, people are setting up camp, they want change. These are themes in BiDiNG TiME, the characters may be less focused than many Occupy protesters but they are living now and looking for answers nevertheless. What action would take you onto the streets? What do you value? What would you risk?

My grandmother was part of Bertrand Russell's committee of 100 in 1960, a movement against nuclear arms and war in general. She went to prison following a sit down demonstration in Trafalgar Square. In the 1980's Greenham Common was an inspiring mecca of resistance. Led by a group of women, chaining themselves to the fences of a missile base, anti nuclear protesters camped out at Greenham for over nineteen years. I was there in April 1983 when over 70,000 people formed a human chain around the nucear missile base. Balloons were released into the air (before we knew how bad they are for the environment) and people sang together. It was incredibly moving.

There are long important traditions of people standing up for what they believe in. Occcupy is the latest in a noble line. It is a kind of theatre, certainly a public performance and perhaps so many theatre practitioners are identifying with it now because traditional theatre seems so elitist and irrelevant. Theatre is locked into buidings and systems that do not allow the stories or hearts to sing freely, to speak their minds. Theatre is mostly undermined by a cultural dramaturgy that keeps it imprisoned. Non violent civil disobedience puts a trip hazard into social systems, reflecting society in refracted mirrors. Usual rules are abandoned. The intention is not necessarily about making trouble but trying to communicate through intervention when other avenues have been explored and seem to be failing. Its a barometer for civil society. Long may it continue.

And we must not let the right wing conservatives abandon this public holiday. Long live May Day.