Michael Boyd. Photograph: Gary Calton

Michael Boyd, announcing the artistic direction of the Royal Shakespeare Company for the coming three years this morning, suggested that theatre was in rude health in this country – not just because of regular, decent funding from the government, not just because of the healthy filtering upwards of energy and inventiveness from the fringe into the mainstream – but also because the very nature of theatre means that it is the artform that speaks most powerfully to the Zeitgeist. “It is the artform for now, at this fragmented time,” he said. “It has to do with how we can connect with each other. In theatre you deal with that – that is why theatre is important right now.”

“It is on its way to reasserting itself as the most urgent artform now, at a time when we are so disconnected. I cannot remember a time when the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Royal Court were so ‘on song’. The hit rate at the moment is tremendous.”

I suppose he means that as communities become more fragile, the pull of sitting in a theatre and being part of a group of people engaged in a communal experience is all the more powerful. What he said reminded me of something Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, Spoonface Steinberg) said to me in an interview the other week: “In miniature, drama is like a metaphor for how life and politics should work – you come together to create a common entity and you try to express yourself with and through other people. Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise.”

Theatre, of course, is the medium of debate, of getting-to-the-bottom-of-things, of hammering things out – unlike more visceral and emotive performing arts, such as dance and classical music. It’s an intriguing idea of Boyd’s – that, above all other artforms it is theatre’s time and theatre is what we need now: not just because there are some good people making and directing plays and running theatres, but because of some deeper cultural forces. I’m not sure I entirely buy Boyd’s position – but it is one to chew on.

Charlotte Higgins