Friday, 12 May 2017

Two Doubts about and One Hope for Contemporary Theatre (in Scotland)

Before I begin... these are doubts and not complaints. They'll probably sound like whining, but that's just my tone of voice. And I bet they contradict themselves at some point.

Ellie Dubois mentions something like this in her interview for the Dramaturgy Database. The people who go to see theatre are people who make theatre or people who already have the habit. She's tentative, but I think I want to be more explicit.

It is quite a thrill for me to see and hear my beliefs articulated on the stage - whether it is the importance of bringing hidden histories to light (Daphne Oram) or how the patriarchy has undermined women (Blow Off). And I'd hate it if these stories disappeared. However, some of the most exciting moments I have experienced in the theatre - like Aalst by the NTS and Victoria - challenged my beliefs. I'm excited by the attempts by The Workers Theatre to encourage minority voices, but wary that the theatrical process itself moulds the expression of the artist so that the marginalised voice ends up with a mainstream accent (so to speak).

A theatre that articulates only the values of its audience... it's unavoidable to an extent. But when a strong production like Travels with my Aunt features a character who properly belongs on The Two Ronnies, I am suspicious about how deep the self-examination goes, or the sincerity of claims for inclusiveness. 

Insert key ideas here: the social media bubble, the cultural specificity of theatre.

In other words, the primacy of the playwright remains in place. And I have started to enjoy scripts, even reading Plays:Nine by Howard Barker (although I would say that YouTube provides more trenchant dystopias than Barker in 2017).

A few years back, when Tramway had a year round programme, a great many companies bowled up offering post-dramatic dramaturgy, large-scale devised theatre, dance-theatre and other things I cannot label so easily. And it is true: not all of this was enjoyable. It did make it clear, however, that words weren't the only way to play.

My ongoing love for the manipulate festival expresses my enthusiasm for 'visual theatre'. My art-crush on Gregor speaks of my love of clowning.

It's easy enough to find evidence that the playwright is still the putative creator of the theatrical experience: check out who gets listed in The Stage or has a special category in most awards ceremonies. I am not asking that the theatre world acts like the film community (and we know that joke...). Just that more work is led by other modes of production.

Insert key ideas here: Matthew Lenton's process, the programmatic and strategic script.

I have talked about the Clown Scratch Cabaret before, and it looks like there are a bunch of people getting onto the clown vibe. Luckily, this doesn't mean big shoes, but an expression of a tradition that cultivates a physical theatre and a sense of humour. Whether it's a bouffon or some comedia action, the clown is back and rocking the movement vocabulary. This might provide a solution for those companies who want to do a tableau, but are currently just moving about in slow motion between scenes.

Insert key ideas here:  Ruxandra Cantir is a genius, that time I ended up on stage...

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