Playing Poor: Inequality, Poverty & Privilege at #edfringe2015

The gap between the poor and the privileged is increasing at an apocalyptic pace.

Duncan Smith and The Tory Barons are making sure that the ‘Have-Nots’ become the ‘Never-Wills’, creating a modern serfdom that will infect and fester within the guts of our country.

So, how do we avoid Conflict? Even civil war?

What can be done to provoke the powerful to exact change? To employ themselves for social justice?

Reflection. The conveyance of these staggering facts in a way that impacts that inner goodness in people, or at least stirring their inner rationalist.

So who is doing this? And how?

Firstly, The focus must be on equality; what won’t work is a half-baked battering of archetypal rich people. The truth of the matter is that a huge divide between rich and poor benefits no one. ‘Trickle Down’ economics is a myth and social sicknesses like crime, bad education, mental illness and drug abuse (which undoubtedly effect us all) are in direct correlation with the level of inequality within a society.

So what if the rich get richer? They’ll be living in a world that will ultimately tear itself apart. Inequality causes a society to commit suicide; destroying itself through unrest, depression and resentment. No amount of money will save you when the poor start crashing though your window, fuelled by hunger and loathing.

Am I exaggerating? I hope so.. But I don’t believe that I am.

The stage is set for some very important issues to be addressed this Fringe. Here are a few I have found so far: (as ever, please keep me posted if you manage to see them or others!)

First on the bill is one of The Stage’s must-seesDown & Out in Paris & London by PIT. This play could prove to be a truly eye-opening, entertaining presentation of what life is like at the bottom of the ladder. Combining Orwell’s first published book with Polly Toynbee’s Hard Work, PIT look at the intricate crushes of life in poverty. PIT are a notoriously physical company; one can expect high octane theatre craft and intelligent story-telling, all crammed into one hour. You really should catch this show.

Also appearing at The Fringe is Polly Toynbee herself with talks on taxation with David Walker; specifically addressing ‘who should be paying what’. Alongside their most recent book, Cameron’s Coup, Toynbee and Walker have a whole host of concepts and insights well worth engaging with. Toynbee is an immensely passionate women, and fierce; her talks have an element of real drama to them. I was lucky enough to meet briefly with her last week; her knowledge and drive are mesmerising and her conviction is contagious. I thoroughly recommend you attend in Edinburgh.

Next up are Smoke and Mirrors; a group of theatre activists from South Africa. This year they’re bringing to The Fringe a very interesting play indeed, Ndebele Funeral. The play examines the state of poverty, violence and health in South Africa but, as all good art does, also creates a platform for all of us to assess our own relationships with these universal problems. The company itself are renowned for the good work they do within suffering communities in South Africa and the USA; they’re a truly noble group, deserving of our support and respect. They also put on a remarkable spectacle, combining rich story-telling with native dance and song.

Foolproof Creative Arts are bringing a revised play back to The Fringe; Help Yourself. The play goes up in partnership with the IJM (International Justice Mission) who improve and protect human life across the planet. That’s quite an endorsement in my book. I’m even content in biting my tongue over IJM’s religious motivation (although I am an active Humanist) when so much good is being done; in whose name it’s being done seems diminutive. The play presents an open-ended perspective on injustice through comedy and anarchic spectacle across continents.

Two other champions of equality are holding talks this year; the revolutionary, Owen Jones, and the professor, Dan Dorling. These are two of our most forward-thinking socialist figureheads, in loud opposition of our current politics. Jones is talking about a new hope for the working people and the overcoming of social injustice. I can’t imagine that Owen Jones is unknown to you, so all I shall say is he a heroic and fearless critic of our exploitative and greedy ‘1%’; heed his words. Dorling looks more specifically at Economic Inequality. He’s written more books on the subject than most people have read books; his opinions couldn’t be more thoroughly informed and are utterly essential in today’s treacherous climate.

It is time we engage with these people, these subjects, in an environment such at The Fringe. Within the Edinburgh whirlwind, who knows what new and impactive enterprises might begin? and by who?

The energy and inspiration The Edinburgh Fringe can provide could well be the furnace fuelling the next big change; the aftershock resonating further than we dare imagine.

See you there…


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