THE ART OF WANTING
Posted on 09 Apr 2016
I’m not that into musicals: but there’s one I love, called Company. It’s about a man in early middle-age having an emotional crisis. (I can’t think why I love it so much.) Towards the end he has a song, called ‘Being Alive’, where he sings about all the things he doesn’t want in his life, especially from a relationship. His friends all crowd round and some of them egg him on. But others think he should be more positive. “Want something,” they say. “Want something.”
Wanting something is both the easiest and the hardest thing in the world to do. The way we live together now, under capitalism, makes some kinds of wanting very easy. It tells us there are so many things to want: this kind of car, that flavour of Pringles, a holiday over there, a boyfriend who looks like [insert name of choice]. But if you don’t want what you’re supposed to want ― and especially if you don’t want to live inside a giant supermarket in the first place ― it’s much more difficult. Under this system, we’re allowed every so often to vote for the government we want. But again, the range of options is actually very narrow. What if we don’t want any of the above? What if we don’t want to live like this at all any more?
Theatre, like all creative arts, is first and foremost an art of wanting. People who make theatre have to get very good at wanting something to be in the world that isn’t already there, or maybe it’s there but nobody’s paying attention. But also, to make it work, we have to create things that audiences want ― even if audiences don’t always know what they’re allowed to want, and even if we find it hard sometimes to really ask those audiences what they want in the first place.
That’s what our show WANTED is all about. We wanted to find out what audiences really wanted to see, if they were allowed to want anything at all. We wanted to remind them ― and ourselves ― that theatres are civic places. They’re places where we come together to think about what we want, not just as individuals but as participants in a whole society, as citizens of a changing country and inhabitants of a changing world. Like schools and hospitals, theatres ― at their best ― are the crucial places where we gather together to tell the true story of who we want to be. In a place like that, what would you want to see?
We’ve been asking that question to people in the street, and on Twitter; and most of all, we asked twenty-four individuals, families, and local organizations to work with us to each create a three minute segment of a show called WANTED. In those three minutes, they could make anything happen. Whatever they wanted most to see on the stage of West Yorkshire Playhouse. What they’ve wanted has turned out to be surprising, strange, funny, angry, tender and beautiful. Just like people are.
What more could you want?