Theatre arts can aid social cohesion – Ron Robinson

Actor, director and veteran broadcaster Ron Robinson believes that the performing arts can influence the

Ron Robinson
Ron Robinson

process of social cohesion in Guyana and thinks that should writers move in train, this could be achieved.
Robinson was part of a three-member panel on TVG’s “The Factor”, where he, along with Al Creighton, Head of the Confucius Institute at UG and Director of the National School Of Drama; and singer-songwriter Dave Martins, examined the role of the performing arts in aiding the process of social cohesion.
The local performing arts have moved beyond musical performances and drama to encompass “spoken word”, “slam poetry” and dance.
According to Robinson, who has been active in numerous local plays, he has been seeing behavioural changes as a result of the plays put on locally.
“I think theatre now is playing a much more meaningful role in the lives of people, especially when plays like the ones coming out of the two recent drama festivals. There have been changes, but the link has been primarily satirical, people come and life… we reflect,” the theatre veteran said.
He said the performing arts (including music) could be a good tool to use to realise social cohesion. He said, however, as it was now, too often there have not been many playwrights going deep enough to actually produce change, both behaviourally and socially. He said often many of the plays were too light and the message was not strong enough.
“We have not rightfully addressed play writing as an art form that could foster behavioural change … even without consciously trying, there have been changes as a result of the Link Shows.”
He said on the other hand, there were a few instances where they were seeing playwrights going much deeper in their work, doing work that was now creating debate at places like Queen’s College and other secondary schools. He said prior to this, people only enjoyed the satire and went for night outs.
However, Dave Martins said while the performing arts could have some effect on social cohesion, he was yet to see it. “It is a matter of degree. I believe that the arts could spur people and make them think. Whether it can actually change direction in society is another issue,” Martins said.
He said while there would be some impact, it would not be enough to change people’s position on fundamental things they have been doing for years.
“I don’t believe that most writers come to a position to say that I’m going to write something to effect that… they are not looking to effect change,” Martins posited.
He added what some persons were seeing as a change happening as a result of the arts was a change that has been happening on its own.
Meanwhile, Creighton, who said he was still to grasp the concept of social cohesion as being sought after by Government, said writers may not know how to get to the issue in their scripts. “They reflect things; they don’t craft a play that would direct the audience to solutions. There is a lot of focus on social ills, and that has gotten their attention. How do you handle the social ills put in a drama? Do you subtly put things that would influence the audience? It has to do with technique and how you handle the problems you show on stage.”