It’s mid-week and I make it a rule only to blog on weekends but I missed last weekend due to an excess of … well, nothing important. And so now, when I’d rather dwell on something arty and warm, I find myself feeling, no, trying not to feel, frustrated about having to recruit for the Newton Circle Project when I’m not certain I’ll get sufficient funds to make it happen, or happen this spring anyway. I need more time, plain and simple. I should have given myself more time to fundraise. I didn’t realise how long it would all take this autumn, nor how long it would take to set up house as single mum in London, nor do all my theatre work. I didn’t give myself time to get ill, which is what the last three days have consumed.
I don’t have enough time to research Newton’s multifaceted life either, but everything I learn is fabulous and so convinces me that this guy deserves a lot more digging and attention — that he deserves to become one of these legendary figures that people could one day refer to and sort of metaphorically try on, like a piece of clothing — the way we can’t do with Shakespeare because we don’t know enough about him, but can do with . . . well, actually, I’m struggling to think of a historical figure that everyone feels they know well enough and can also laugh at. Newton really needs to be laughed at, the one thing never allowed in his lifetime. He had all these disciples, people who really worshipped him, yet it’s hard to imagine any of these young men actually loved him. Perhaps letters will give clues, but letters can be so full of flattery.
I just know this project needs to happen and that I can’t give up on it, regardless of what the funding decisions are in January. I think theatre’s potential to benefit communities is far from being realised in London, and if not here, then nowhere. The trouble is that fringe theatres are struggling just to make ends meet, and doing extra projects is not a priority. Yet it is the educational projects that underline what theatre can do. We have to find a way to make “education” and “theatre” mean much more than bringing in school students to see plays that they are examined on. Young people need to see the two combining in more ways than drama workshops, however good and worthy those can be, because often workshops are geared more toward talking about the “how” of a play, rather than the “why”. We have to find a way to make adult education relevant and exciting and valued — the stuff that happens in a pre- or post-show talk about at play. That little bit of mental growth — that’s what we are all looking for, the facts and concepts and stories that help us make sense of the play on stage.
So I chew metaphorically my pencil and hope that I can get funding and get 25 people young and old to imagine what it was like to be in Isaac Newton’s social circle. This project in truth is putting education before drama and expecting the drama will flow from it. It’s an experiment, and it’s one that needs to be tried.