May 7, 2007

Here came the sun

Like most people brought up on the kind of rain-blighted (and hence primarily indoor) holidays that Britain has to offer, when the sun does come out I have this in-no-way wholesome or satisfying compulsion to go and make the most of it for fear that to not do so is somewhere between criminal and sacriligious. Although this in no way condones my abysmal lack of posting it goes someway to explaining it.

And for Debbie, the Kevin Costner post is coming - I just want to take my time and ensure its all that it could (nay, should) be.

In the meantime I have been reading, and rather enjoying, Baz Kershaw's book The Radical in Performance - a interesting meander through the potential sites (geographic, social, and almost spiritual) of radicialism in performance in a world torn between the postmodern and the modern, like an arrogant 12 year old and his knowingly annoying younger brother fighting over a football they both only want because they know the other does.

On one point I disagree though. Kershaw very openly dismisses performance based within the traditional theatrical institutions as even the most radical of form and content is commodified and undermined by the hegemonic architectual and social environment in which it is housed. In other words, it doesn't matter how radical you're being onstage if you're in a West End proscenium theatre and you paid £45 for your ticket, £15 for your programme and £65 for your interval drinks, then there's no way that show can have its desired political (or radical) effect.

Though I see Kershaw's point I want to try at least to disagree. If for no other reason than the amount of money that goes support them and the number of people whose relationship to performance is shaped by them, it would be criminal to abandon theatre to the system (whatever that may be). It is our responsibility to find new ways to undermine the architecture and the contracts the audience is bound into by going to The Theatre.

Treat the theatre as site-specific. Begin to play with the things that make it a theatre. Frighten, annoy, frustrate the audience. Undermine, double, deconstruct The Theatre, as a building and as a institution. Tear it down from the inside rather than turning your back and playing in the corner.

Through Nick Hytner's time at the national there are elements of what Kershaw might see as radical performance amazingly beginning to sneak into the beating heart of British theatre. People who bought tickets for Punchdrunk's Faust found themselves not walking comfortably along the southbank but stepping out of Shadwell Tube station and across a council estate, trawling through parts of London they had likely never seen before in search of the performance. And even inside the building itself, Katie Mitchell's work is exploring the same avenues as The Wooster Group (with equal levels of consternation amongst audience and critics).

So let's not give up on the dog yet.

Read it though. It's a very good book. I'll be back soon.

No comments: