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  • Liam Rees on embracing bullshit


    The Land That Never Was is a story about a conman called Gregor MacGregor who made up a country. It's also a story about me telling lies to tourists. It's also a story about an audience deciding what they choose to believe or not. In times of crisis people often turn to cults, conspiracy theories, and con artists. There's a comfort in confident, charismatic leader who can tell you a story that makes sense of the chaos we're in. Unfortunately, I'm going to provide no such thing.

    When I first heard about Gregor's scam, I knew that the show had to be told by an unreliable narrator - I needed someone to sell the audience a version of reality just like Gregor did. But as time went by I thought more and more about how we commodify truth and authenticity. In the eternal argument about why theatre is inevitably going to die at the hands of film, TV, AI and (insert new technology here), I've seen a surge of interest in theatre's great strengths: the live, unfiltered relationship with the audience. There is no algorithm trying to optimise content for your specific taste cluster. There is no doubt that the person in front of you is real - you can reach out and touch them if you like. Could the promise of realness and truth actually be a selling point?

    But I worry that this plays into a capitalistic approach to storytelling. The underlying assumption seems to be that More Truth = More Valuable. The hunger for truth and authenticity has led to more creatives questioning what and whose stories they're allowed to tell - surely it's safer to stick to "what you know"? But at what point does mining your own personal experience become narcissism? Or do you risk commodifying yourself to satisfy an audience? And why are they entitled to your lived truth and experience? 

    It's in this morass of questions that I found freedom in talking bullshit. Because, yeah, we love to shine a light on reality and dig into uncomfortable truths, but the real heart of storytelling is escapism. We don't have to live by the rules of this world. We can play pretend and imagine other truths and realities. It often feels that the capitalist logic at play in the theatre world is constraining our abilities to imagine any kind of alternative to the mess we're in. Maybe what we need is to be a bit less bound by the truth and embrace the freedom of just making shit up?

    Unless, you think I'm talking bullshit right now...


    The Land That Never Was

    21-22 May 9pm


    Liam Rees

    "Companies like us genuinely would not be making theatre if it was not for the ability of CPT and its team to identify artists who are worth taking a chance on."

    Sh!t Theatre