Theatre is empathy, empathy, empathy

On my way home from an evening of gentle drinking and the lingering aftertaste of my first sip of Baileys, I am reading Kate Tempest’s interview in the Guardian. The journalist’s use of a word tryptic subsequently borrowed for the title of this post, sticks with me: Empathy, empathy, empathy.

On my long and laboured journey home (I live so far out West it might as well be Bristol. A fact hampered greatly by the nagging remnants of a hangover) I juggle with the triplet around my cluttered brain until I finally land in my room – a room that is blessedly light, airy and newly uncluttered (unlike my fettered brain). Here my restless mind settles on a friend who recently spoke of their determination that they are ‘without value’ and ‘unlovable’. I resolve to inspire them to think differently; that they are valuable, and that they are infinitely loveable. My default on these occasions is almost pathetically reliant on the words of others.

A trail of flares release a dozen quotes from plays inside my tin can of a skull. The explosion of remembering across my frontal lobe is like being plunged into an ice bath amid a blazing tropical sun trapped day. Words filled with the author’s skill for capturing a moment in time, a moment of empathy.

Playwright’s have a divine skill in skewering the heart of each human matter, and have conspired to create their own Wikiquote across my life.

Theatre is Empathy.

Theatre taught me what love can be. Romeo and Juliet, impulsive and heartfelt in a breathless moment; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, faith, fear and friendship…

It taught me that sadness is an experience felt in a singular way. The Seagull, the black dog as a spectre allowed to grow; 4.48 Psychosis, as the impossible being indescribably logical…

Theatre taught me how to use my imagination. Tiny Dynamite, where nothing is as it seems; Matilda, growing up doesn’t mean we stop dreaming.

I credit theatre with an empathy that feels as vast as an ocean, and yet deeper.

So, to my friend who feels without value and unloved, I implore you to take heed of the words that shot the brightest flare this morning. The flare that lit up when my empathy took you in it’s arms, and cried for you to know that:

“You are fabulous creatures, each and everyone.

And I bless you: More Life.

The Great Work Begins.”

– Tony Kushner, Angels in America part two: Perestroika


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