Why You're 'Now Treated Like a Lunatic' If You Disagree With Popular Opinion

Political discourse in Britain has devolved toward ludicrousness. Filling the gap is a generation of keen, talented writers presenting weighty ideas on stages across the nation.

Sir David Hare: The reason the theater is uniquely valuable is because you have to concentrate. In other words, you’re hijacked for two hours and you’ve got to turn off your cellphone. You’ve got to stop talking to your neighbor and you’ve actually all got to examine something together. Now some people would be bored and some people will look away while it’s happening and other people will cough; another will head straight for the exit. And some people will not choose to focus. But at a good play, what you get is this extraordinary act of concentration.

I suppose what I’m talking about is scrutiny. In other words, it’s one thing to look at an idea on the page and run it through your brain. But it’s a completely different thing to be in a room where a whole group of people make a moral examination together of actions and words. Now clearly for the next generation after mine who were brought up on television, cinema, video, the moving image, beginning of computers — they weren’t really interested in theater. And in England, at least, it’s not a very distinguished bunch of playwrights that follow mine. However, the young, who are now bored stiff with computers, bored stiff with film, bored stiff with television. They actually have taken up theater again. And what we have is a brilliant crop of young writers, a lot of them female, working in Britain. And the theater is being regenerated by the young. And particularly at a time when public discourse, in Britain at least, is so impoverished. And so one-track, you know. We, now, for anyone to descend from orthodoxy about neoliberal economics. That the only way of the world advancing is apparently through deregulated markets, cheap labor, you know. If you say anything else, if you start talking about workers’ rights, you’re now treated like a lunatic in Britain. They want to put you in a white coat and take you away. And so the theater’s the place where people can look at ideas again.

There’s a very beautiful saying of Raymond Williams, who was my old tutor. And Raymond Williams once said if people cannot have justice officially, they will have it unofficially. And unofficially, at the moment, means by going to the theater.

What's the point of plays in the age of digital cinema? According to Sir David Hare (who knows a thing or two about good theatre), theater is uniquely valuable because it demands concentration of its audience. "You’re hijacked for two hours and you’ve got to turn off your cellphone. You’ve got to stop talking to your neighbor and you’ve actually all got to examine something together."

One cannot possibly overstate how momentous a live performance can be. A powerful play spurs action. It encourages critical thought and discourse. British theater is thriving at the moment and it's because a generation of keen, talented writers are presenting weighty, contrary ideas about society and politics.

Hare's latest book, titled The Blue Touch Paper, is a memoir of his early life and career.


Related Articles

Why Japan's hikikomori isolate themselves from others for years

These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.

700,000 Japanese people are thought to be hikikomori, modern-day hermits who never leave their apartments (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images).
Mind & Brain
  • A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
  • This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
  • Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less