I’ve really enjoyed being part of National Theatr Wales’ Big Democracy Project over the past two years. In 2014 the Bangor assembly focussed on voter apathy, before Director Gavin Porter moved it across Wales to discuss other themes and issues such as working with Oasis Asylum & Refugee Centre to dissect identity and working with disabled artists at Celf o Gwmpas; which all lead us to the Senedd this weekend.
Working with artist Amanda Powell (photo above) on the Fforwm Anabledd/Disability Forum was informative and, yes, a little depressing as we workshopped and discussed the question ‘Is austerity disproportionately affecting disabled people?’. But it was great to see so many people join our various discussion/workshop groups and get involved with the conversations.
That evening the final show came together as NTWs technical team and performers kicked into overdrive to deliver a one-off spectacular show. Working with NTW is always a transformative experience as the teams knit seamlessly together to create engaging shows across Wales and it’s a truly wonderful thing to be a part of.
Opportunities to stretch the writing and explore new characters are always gratefully embraced as I tend to write from my lefty-perspective, so creating the rightwing politician Sarah Heathcote has been a interesting experience. Writing her speech for the show just the afternoon before(!) was terrifying but also fun and I threw myself into the role of panto villain, channelling Thatcher – boooo hissss!
One thing I would note is how few politicians bothered to turn up. Nobody at all from Labour or the Conservatives came along (UKIP thankfully didn’t bother either). But I was impressed that Amelia Womack (deputy leader of the Green Party) came to read a poem and that she stayed to see the whole show along with Ruth, The Women’s Equality Party Welsh Assembly candidate. Plaid Cymru did put in an appearance and an engaging speech but I think he left straight after he’d spoken, which is a shame because it was a great opportunity for him to hear what people from across Cymru are passionate about. But at least he came.
Anyway – Big Democracy was also an amazing opportunity to perform in the Senedd. Here’s my piece in response to a poem about hating suits, and the people who wear them:
I am Sarah Heathcote –
Leader of The Party
your elected representative
And yes sometimes, I wear a suit.
My life is dedicated to politics, to speaking for you, the people.
I’ve benefitted from certain advantages –
a wealthy family
a private education –
Is that my fault?
Who created this system?
Who holds it up?
On whose backs do I stand?
In this place of power my words
Carry greater weight than yours,
Which is ironic – as you created me.
You built this tinder-dry-puppet-show
And you could set it alight –
in one moment sparking
a beacon for true change and justice –
An inferno raging into the long night.
But you don’t.
That is your choice.
I choose to work with this system you constructed rather than
wallow in self-pity and a pretty avalanche of ineffectual
The future arrives faster than we can imagine
And I intend to be part of it.
The great author Ayn Rand famously wrote
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
If I don’t reflect your views – vote for another candidate or
Put yourself forward
If the system doesn’t represent you – change it
If you choose not to pay attention
Do not complain at the outcomes
– you don’t really want revolution –
the commitment and sacrifice demanded are too great
And the fur-lined cuffs of capitalism
Of weekend drinking and identikit IKEA culture
Are suddenly not such a terrible a burden
You could transform right now
Each one of you is a drop in an ocean of change and
Together you could engulf these halls of power
Drown out inequality and injustice
Flush out nepotism and greed
And no one
And no thing
Could dam that overwhelming seachange.
You could remove me from power tomorrow.
But ask yourself – what would happen in that void?
Is the fear of uncertainty so great?
So I will continue to make the decisions I believe are right for our country
For our businesses and our financial institutions
And while you are distracted with denigrating
refugees and single mothers – the sick and disabled
I will continue to focus on the
nationalisation of risk and the privatisation of profit
You could instigate real change.
But you’re not going to.
So vote for me, or don’t –
When my time in politics concludes
I’ll still advance, perhaps becoming a CEO in banking, utilities or healthcare
And this political experience will secure me a handsomely paid
private consultancy role
with your next elected government.”