The Means of Production : Gloss

The Means of Production

From the start, she asks: What would it mean for theatre to produce a living wage? She dreams of a world in which the making of things—metaphor, movement, breathing and breath—would extract from surplus a structure that more robustly sustains the lives of all of those who live and work within it. She sketches that world as if thinking, and dreaming, and feeling, and love were made fully accessible, were more fully valued, as tools of all trade. She stares at her screen. What would this take? Her fingers trip over numbers, doing their sums; then they freeze. She deletes, deletes again. She abandons all math, its logics too restrictive for the world she’s invoked.

But they beckon her back, those numbers: and she sets in place a scheme that would make this world both the dreamed-of and the done. Tax all who have excess not for war but for art—or for beauty, shared feeling, provocation, or whatever theatre may set out for itself to do. Make theatre as a system of roads, or bridges, or power lines strung from every pole: core to the infrastructure, the heart, the goings-on of the social world. Essential trumps exceptional, she thinks, in a world so wholly steered by cost. She rewrites austerity as, instead, the obligatory cost of to live.

Throughout, she demands: What would it mean for theatre to be a living wage?

She turns from her screen, sees the world as it is.

When she wakes, she tries again. It all comes out the same. She sleeps, wakes again: writes the same. And again, and again. It would all be so simple; it is all so viable, so imminently concrete, but for will. But for will.


About the Author

Jen Harvie is Professor of Contemporary Theatre and Performance at Queen Mary University of London. Her monographs include Fair Play: Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Theatre & the City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Staging the UK (Manchester, 2005), and The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance (co-author, Routledge, 2005). She co-edited Making Contemporary Theatre (with Andy Lavender, Manchester, 2010) and The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver (with Lois Weaver, Intellect, 2016). She co-edits Palgrave Macmillan’s series Theatre &. Her current work examines austerity economics and feminist theatre.