share the language and free the word! in theatre

What are you trying to say?

Following on from yesterday, I raised an obvious point about everyday suffering in the world and the role that theatre can play in the healing of these afflictions. Theatre, as language, plays a hugely important part in the understanding between cultures, especially language shared globally. The modern climate allows for a vast amount of cross-culture collaboration to take place, with freedom of travelling growing at an implausible rate and international theatre companies joining forces left, right and centre because of this. It is only inherent that we should embrace these opportunities and make it a responsibility to learn, teach and grow together in co-cultures – language plays vital part of this.

In search of this responsibility, I should take time to highlight the upcoming Free the Word: A celebration of world literature festival taking place at the South Bank, London this weekend (11-13 April). The festival is being held by International PEN – a hugely established association of writers from across the world. Its focus is the breaking of divisions between countries using language. This is what the organisers say:-

Meet the great writers you know and the great writers you don’t…

Come and feast upon a weekend of events that promises to engage with stories from all over the globe in unexpected and extraordinary encounters. Be part of an intimate conversation, a raucous debate, a provocative cabaret, or just listen to dialogues between eminent and emerging writers as they discuss their role as creators, thinkers and interpreters in society.

Free the Word! is taking place at the National Theatre, The Old Vic, Southbank Centre and Young Vic.

The festival is the perfect opportunity to learn how language can incite, invite, inspire, invoke and inflame in the best way possible. This, in turn, can be used in the theatre, with all the above terms, to educate both creators and audiences alike.

However, the truth is that at the moment, there is, as Hassan Abdulrazzak puts it in his blog at the Guardian Unlimited, too big a “gap in knowledge” – particularly between Western cultures and the Middle East, for example. Abdulrazzak writes that the perception and understanding that we have about other countries and cultures has been filtered only by the news and television. Others also have the same closed view about us – that we are a male hooligan, violence driven nation, which plainly isn’t true.

Theatre is a medium which can change these views and Free the Word is an ideal festival to attend which can help support. So, again, I stress the value in our responsibility as theatre makers to take in every possibility and help shape the views of the world at large.


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