Today in Year 12 Drama we were undertaking theory on Brecht and his Epic Theatre (at this point it is worth warning you that I think Brecht will probably feature prominently in this blog over future months). Although the class had covered this topic several times before in a variety of guises over the past three years, this was Part 1 of the end of the road on the man many consider to be the most influential theatre practitioner since World War II.
I have always believed the most effective method of getting students excited about something educational is to give them an example they can relate to. So right in the middle of discussing how Brecht’s theatre was deliberately designed in order to instruct the spectator to achieve social change outside the theatre in the world around him/her, it hit me that today’s example is the lead singer of arguably the biggest rock band in the world, U2.
If Brecht used his theatre for social change, then isn’t Bono doing the same thing? A critic in the room quickly snapped ‘yeah, like that’s original!’ and right she was. Bono is far from the first musician to use music for social activism. He may not be the first (Bob Geldof and Sting are just two that come to mind) but he is definitely one of the best.
Love or hate U2’s music, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Bono is no idiot. Having met many of the world’s leaders over the past few decades for meetings on social and economic issues, the man has a serious world agenda that is being carefully considered by some of the most powerful people on the planet.
Bono played at the Live Aid concert in 1985 and the Live 8 concert in 2005. He is the co-founder of DATA (Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa) and is involved in the Make Poverty History campaign. Along the way, he recently played a pivotal role in convincing several of the world’s wealthiest nations to wipe the slate clean of African debt and provide drugs and care for victims of AIDS on the African continent. He was one of TIME Magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2005 and was this month nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
So it is pretty clear that what Brecht was trying to achieve with his theatre (propaganda or not), Bono is trying to achieve with words in his songs and at his concerts. He recently said in a 60 Minutes interview that whatever the price is for cashing in his celebrity status for the good of social and economic change to help the poorest people on Earth, then it is worth it.
I recall a haunting comment by Bono on World Aids Day a few years ago stating that in the future, this generation will be remembered for just two things ……… the Internet and AIDS.
Rock on Bono………..
Brecht + Bono = Social Activism