Broken voices, bell hooks details in an essay, resort to inventing spaces of radical openness on the margin. The margin is not a safe space, it’s a necessary means of survival only when a nurturing community unfolds for collective healing of voice and self; even then, survival is not guaranteed for all.
These spaces allow us to step into ourselves, to be gently but firmly held, to provoke lovingly angered demands that the broken voice must and will be heard, a love that goes beyond doting friendliness, to the edges wherein stern ardent care can be felt. This care is a community that relentlessly wants more for you than you could ever dream up for yourself.
‘Everywhere we go there is pressure to silence our voices, co-opt and undermine them,’ hooks continues. The broken voice, a speech of suffering that often nobody wants to hear, has been violently broken and suppressed through the theft of narrative, by those who do not understand it, but seek to distort it to palatability for a particular theatre audience, all under the guise of ‘uplifting’.
The robbing of stories, Natalie Ibu writes in The Stage, is a ‘systematic silencing, a robbing of voice and ultimately a theft of humanity.’ In retaliation to the theft, within the margins we sit beside a patience for each other that thinly distributes the weight of each stumble and stutter, we hear each other back to humanity.
Particularly in recent years with how funding is now sourced with demographic tick boxes, this co-option of narrative merely becomes salt to the wounds. Instead of feeding all the research money and resources into aiding the nurture and education of the broken voice, they spread the shattered pieces atop a plinth for all to see through a bubbled glass casing.
The voice becomes methodically unrecognisable, we are taught this is art but that which looks from inside out and has scuffs and cracks is ultimately the most invaluable voice for it is the core of humanity, the broken voice is the core of humanity.
It is true that the broken voice has been violently broken, suppressed and neglected, however, there’s no lacking within the voice itself. As multimedia producer extraordinaire, Tobi Kyeremateng, meticulously puts it ‘some of the best theatre [is] being performed in school playgrounds and on the top deck of buses,’ by those who are rarely deemed as storytellers, let alone seen within theatres.
Within the cracks of the broken voice, like Kintsugi, lie gold leafs of language and healing. There is no lacking for the broken voice, it is more a question of which language people consider intelligible and valuable. Who gets to do that deciding. Who do we need to make theatre intelligible for. This is evident within the way people discuss what ‘theatre’ is and how often that definition is boxed into the circus that is the theatre building, disregarding the very theatricality of and the beauty found within the art of the broken voice.
The Broken Voices Hear Each Other Back To Humanity is a Boundless Ideas commission for 15-25 year olds to write opinion led pieces that speak to themes of Politics, Identity and Theatre.
Benin is a London based writer and producer, with a focus on theatre criticism.