Protest Song – An Account of Occupy.
By John Sinha for Occupy London Media.
Protest Song is an account of the occupy movement as seen through the eyes of one of the long-term homeless residents of St. Paul’s during the months of the occupation there.
Through a monologue format, in which the audience itself forms a prop to Danny’s narrative, we are taken through the events and issues faced by the occupation from its first day. At first Danny is resentful of the occupation, dismissive of its political pretensions as hundreds of tents suddenly appear in St. Paul’s Churchyard.
Danny’s vulnerability and precarity, his struggle with alcoholism, mirrors that of the protest camp itself: from the drunken vagrants pissing on tents, to drunken bankers kicking them over after a Friday night binge. The pent up rage at his predicament is ready to burst open at any moment. Struggling to subdue his own violence, his condition invites a sense of unease amongst the audience but is tempered by a sardonic wit typical of many of those who have to survive on the streets. This unease, subdued but always just below the surface, was a real feature of the camp revealing in its turn the gulf between the perspectives of the home-less residents and the “activists” .
As the play progresses we are able to see the development of Danny’s political consciousness. It is in the kitchen that Danny is able to find a place to integrate himself into the life of the camp by taking on one of the main practical tasks required to run a camp. In finding a role for himself, he is able to integrate with the many diverse characters which made up the camp. He begins to function as one of the “activists” participating in the General Assemblies where he declares, “This is a protest not a camp”.
The playwright, Tim Price, collaborated with many former occupiers in developing the script and the result is a play which captures some of the essence and atmosphere of occupy.
The character Danny, powerfully played by actor Rhys Ifans is loosely based on one of the home-less residents who became an active part of the camp. It is through this unlikely hero we are given an insight into this remarkable political moment. Through Danny’s experiences, the play does not shy away from contradictions inherent in such a situation. And it poses questions about the nature of the prefigurative politics which often flow from such moments
Occupy might not have saved the 99% from the 1%. But it certainly transformed the political consciousness of many who part, as Danny concluded, “Occupy f*cked up a lot of people because it gave us hope.”“Occupy f*cked up a lot of people because it gave us hope.”