The reasons behind Follow Suit and why it is so important to think for yourself.
Making theatre in a capitalist world is hard. Not only because times are tough and paying for rehearsal space, design, artist time, marketing and a host of other things is expensive, but also because it goes against the things you fight for as artists. We want to share our work, inspire people, engage in conversation, present other perspectives and celebrate individuality and togetherness, but doing so in a space where you are either paying to be there, or charging someone else is hard.
This is not to say that people shouldn’t get paid for their hard work, and that their work is not worth the money, but it can become a moral dilemma. Why should people pay to see us and our shows if we can’t afford to see theirs? Is there argument for an artist concession? But shouldn’t artists be the main ones championing the need to pay for the work being made? And how do we sell our work while trying to avoid the harmful capitalist methods of marketing, and the subtle but damaging-to-art crowbarring of our individual pieces of work into a wide-spread marketing bracket that appeals to as many audiences as possible?
It all turns into one big moral question mark and, for those of us trying to advertise our work, a giant headache. And that’s without even mentioning comp tickets for press and industry. (This is why it is so hard to write heartfelt articles about all the reasons we made our show Follow Suit, without feeling like the whole thing is all just a plug for a fantastic night out at the VAULT Festival.)
The thing we need to work out is, if everything is increasingly unaffordable and we only have limited funds to support some of the great work out there, then what do we choose?
This is the consumer riddle for everything. What is more important, a Netflix subscription or the new iphone? Cheap butter and branded Jaffa Cakes, or organic butter and own brand? And what implications and outcomes do our consumer decisions make?
This is the challenge we pose in Follow Suit, if for corporations profit is the most important thing, then what happens to our morals along the way, and what footprints do we make? And when do we accept culpability for the outcomes of our decisions?
It is easy to call McDonalds a horrible corporate beast, but what does that make us when we cave in to Big Mac at 2.30am after a night out? And it’s easy to hate Primark for using child labour, but in reality how much better for the planet and its people is the mass production of any fashion item? And the moral wonders of someone travelling to help in a women’s refuge in Syria are incredible, but what about damage caused by the carbon emissions that the flight used to get them there?
It’s easy to get caught up in an echo chamber about the right and wrong things to buy and companies to support, with the same opinions batting back and forth, but it’s much harder to start thinking for ourselves and deciding where we stand on a case by case basis. It’s ok for us to disagree with one another, but what is not okay is for us to ignore things that don’t seem fashionable to discuss, or even worse things that damn us personally. For example, it’s easy for me as a vegetarion to damn the meat industry and the horrific results of mass meat production alongside the widespread practice of cruelty to animals, but it is a lot harder for me to address the cow’s milk I still choose to drink in my tea and my unhealthy obsession with cheese, even though I know that these things have serious effects on the animals producing the products and the carbon emissions associated with dairy farming.
We recently shared an interesting article about the ineffectiveness of ‘conscious consumerism’, which made some really key points about change needing to be found at a systematic level – writing to local governing bodies about legislation and targeting key players at the source when it comes to harmful consumer outcomes. But the argument still stands that we each have a role to play in the battle for a better, fairer world.
The list of questions is immeasurable, and the reality is that there is no answer - we have to make the choices ourselves. The problem is that so many people are happy to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions. Why take on a guilty conscience about the Big Mac we ate last night, when the perpetrators of the issue (in this case, and so many others, McDonalds) are still going strong today? Because it’s easier for us not to worry about it. Because one burger can’t make a difference, surely. Because we genuinely don’t care.
The sooner we accept that we can have an effect if we want to, the sooner we can each individually help make or break the planet.
Afterall, as J.K. says, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Silent Faces are an integrated theatre company creating brave, ridiculous, unique and challenging devised theatre. Our show, Follow Suit runs from 7-11 March, and tackles the dark and chaotic world of high finance.