A play at the New Victoria Theatre, one I have just watched,
I think it is set in the 1700’s, so five to six lifetimes ago. It could have been my great, great, great, great grandparents working and living in those conditions. And this is what makes the theatre so different than the cinema, the subject material.
Plays can be watched without knowing what the subject matter is before going, some are funny, some sad, some political, some adapted from stories known, with a little twist or two, and then there are some that get you to reflect on what we have now. This is one of those plays.
I have seen plays based on the celts, living off the land, grass for a mattress and stars for a roof. Plays about a time of the war, of shortage, separation and loss. Of social struggles and of political struggles to improve the working or living conditions of the working class. And it is there, played out before your very eyes, close enough to touch it. The emotions of the actors played out through the tone of voice and posturing, no post production tweaks, it’s there, it’s raw. And no play is the same, because they all want a different story to tell; or a different viewpoint to share.
Tonight’s play left me thinking at how far we have come as a people in such short a time, but at what cost?
At what point did civilisation create slums?
When did we think it was acceptable to have people living in such poor conditions, making living a time of survival because of what money your parents had? No fear of predators to hunt you down, but a fear of the water from well down the street and the diseases it harboured. A hunger that could not be fed by finding and hunting for food, because the landscape was no longer the hunter gatherers hills and plains of the people, rather the land of the few.
When did people become less-than? And less well-off than those that wore the furs of the animals they ate, and drank from water of streams, unpolluted by industry, homes made out of stones and straw?
At some point we as a people accepted, that for some, this would be a step up in living standards, but had it accepted as being more civilised than the savages before.
And we are only six lifetimes away from that. And yet for some we have not moved from it at all.