For Art’s Sake?

So I just watched Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. I now have a face covered in mascara stains and notebook pages covered in ideas. Is it wrong that I have gotten so creatively inspired by a documentary addressing such an issue as assisted suicide? What’s more, is it wrong for art to ever deal with such painful, powerful and provocative issues when life itself can barely even adequately address them? Or, is this latter point the very reason why art has to deal with life in all its reality?

This is a question, I realise, that spans realms of time/space to the very beginnings of life and art (?); what is the relationship between art and reality?

When a play or a film, say, tackles something particularly recent and particularly painful it is bound to cause contention. Not least of which is the exploitation of real suffering, real-life events, for commercial success. Being a medium to be visually consumed by the masses, theatre will always tread this line between commercial and societal value; but doesn’t the fact that the representation of serious issues immediately raises the alarm of commercial exploitation say something far more detrimental about the state of the arts in our society than it does about the writer, or director, or theatre that brought the work into being?

Theatre has long-held the position of public forum, for the airing of concerns in society and humanity at large. What we seem to have now, or at least for the vast majority of the time, is taking a turn towards dirty commercial play where all that matters is bums on seats, not cognizant heads on the bodies of sentient beings.

But these, I think, are thoughts for another time, another post, another hour. What I mean to say, for now, is that why should I feel bad for generating ideas for a play from this touching and brilliantly dealt with documentary? It addresses a subject that is necessary for us, as a society, to address and so why should it not also be addressed by theatre?

Possibly because it may not be able to be done any better than this documentary, possibly because of charges of excessive sentimentalisation not to mention the ideological minefield one would have to enter. Then again, art has to enter a minefield every now and again or else it’ll go stale and irrelevant. So, perhaps these ideas will work their way into a play. But that wouldn’t be without issues, and certainly not without treading very carefully.

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