I am writing this at the start of our fourth week of rehearsals for ‘Natives’ and in amongst the swirl of notes, run throughs, creative team meetings and preparing to move this new play in to the theatre I am thinking about what power there is in disruption. This idea of the power young people possess when they disrupt is one that I have been reflecting on since becoming Artistic Director here at Boundless Theatre. It is also, of course not easy to avoid all of the many disruptions that have taken place in the world since last summer and the real impact of great political change on the generation who we make work for.
‘Natives’ tackles disruption head on, in that it puts three young people on stage and moves them to a place where they have to make a choice as to what having power means, its responsibilities but more than that what great hope there is in standing up and disrupting. These three young people are like many that I’ve had the privilege to get to know through our Advisory Group and work in schools over the past several months. They all see the world with real clarity, but are often overwhelmed by what must feel like a constant bombardment of politics and culture in their hands or in front of their eyes. Yet, I’ve also been inspired by the wisdom, the strong opinions and the optimism coming from diverse teenagers who through the internet have found new role models who look like them and who are building communities across borders.
“I want to ensure that we can empower young people to give voice to their own stories.”
Creating a platform for this generation is what I see the job as being here at Boundless. I want to ensure that we can empower young people to give voice to their own stories, share them widely and encourage a little healthy disruption. Perhaps the adults don’t have the answers and perhaps we’ve forgotten what it is to actually listen across divides. I spend more time now looking to ‘Teen Vogue’ for analysis and opinion on the world simply because they are getting it so right; well written, opinionated editorial that knows its audience and wants to drive change. There’s a lot to learn from that, especially in theatre.
I’ve heard a great many people offer concern that teenagers are too distracted, have attention spans that aren’t suited to watching plays and who have better things to spend limited money on. Yet, every teenager I meet is craving connection, a shared space and a sociable, engaged and relevant place to spend time. That has got to be theatre in my opinion but not necessarily theatre as we know it. We’ll certainly be putting on plays in theatres that I hope connect to teenagers, as ‘Natives’ demonstrates but also I think there’s a need for greater disruption if we are going to engage a whole new, diverse and young audience. Our theatre needs to learn from, not dictate to this generation who are raring to go, who in many ways are already rebuilding the world in their image and who if we let them will disrupt our world for the better.