Are we stuck inside our buildings?

Convener(s): Chris Gage 

Participants: Stephen Jon, Harun Morrison, Dan Marsden, Gill Hanblefan, Nicky Petto, Sean McTennt, Sarah Floyd, Ruth Ben-Tovini, James Stenhouse or possibly horse (apologies for the spelling)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Buildings dictate what’s inside them.

Leaving buildings:

  • involves losing control
  • is dangerous and risky.
  • can make the ordinary extra-ordinary 

The doors to theatre buildings are heavy. We can use established building brands on work that happens outside buildings to make the brand appealing to people who wouldn’t normally engage with it/enter the theatre building. 

National Theatre is very imposing

It’s interesting what they’ve done putting theatre outside it.

And the lighting, which softens the façade.

Possibility of modular structures.

LIFT’s New Parliament:

Consultation demanded a variety of routes in and out. And the ability to spread out of the building.

Things that happen before the arrival in the building. And after it’s gone.

Brings up questions of authorship.

Buildings have layers of history. History is a barrier. Potential to make moments of history in the city.

Buildings aren’t the problem, it’s what happens inside of them.

Perhaps we need to face the fact that the work’s not good enough. 

Recognise a desire to be working inside theatres:

  • because of prestige/money/career.
  • And the attraction of the normal.
  • Want celebrity in a healthy way. 

There’s a hierarchy of value attached to theatre (quite Victorian). Perhaps the National Theatre of Scotland is a better model. Should the NT do the same?

How do we validate what we do outside of buildings?

  • Engage the brands of big buildings in this work (although Shunt lost core audience members when at the National)

Are there other systems of operation not involving the whims of an artistic director? What’s the role of Programmer?

The work must be artist led. And sensitive. 

Work outside of buildings is closer to the roots of theatre.

There’s a divide between arts for art’s sake and socially engaged theatre that needs to be broken. There’s an optimism of those things coming closer together with the need for hard outputs.

Theatre is a place to come together to explore who we are. Theatre buildings have too much baggage.

There’s a comparison to be made with visual arts, what with galleries becoming part of popular culture (eg the Turner Prize).

Should there be a prize for theatre outside of buildings?

There is the Total Theatre award. A specific prize would be damaging.

People are working outside of theatres because theatres aren’t working.

The way a building is defines the way people are inside it.

Are we wasting energy trying to get people into theatres?

Lots of desires coming together at LIFT:

  • Food
  • People
  • Inspiration
  • Politics

That’s what theatre should be doing.

In Germany, spaces in transition are maintained by artists. Also a bit in England: eg Plan b, and Lot 16 in Bristol.

Carnival pageants aren’t seen are serious. We should subvert that notion. Carnival loses concentration of experience. How amazing was the Sultan’s Elephant?!?

We’re not just stuck in our buildings as theatre makers, we’re stuck in our buildings as a community. Our streets are shared social spaces. They’re liminal and transitory.

Free runners reinterpret our street spaces.

Renaming spaces has a huge impact.

Buildings put us in a mode and a role. In the street we are at our most neutral.

Interesting groups:

  • Transgressive Architecture manipulates space against its usual use
  • LIGNA use transistor radios to give instructions to groups in public spaces
  • Micro-performances in Paris.

Overlaps with areas of performance art.

A man giving free hugs was stopped by the police. The next day he was in the same place getting a petition which enabled him to be giving hugs again by day three.

Hunger for acts of connection.

Interesting person: Maria Linardis – Daily Service.

Offer an invitation and people want it. In a virtual world, theatre is real and visceral.

There is little space for spontaneity inside buildings.

Get outside! It’s full of risk and danger.