Caroline Williams, 28 January 2013

Session led by: Caroline Williams

Attended by Ellie Stamp, Beccy Owen, Jaye Kearney, Susie Riddell, Kristen

Fredricksson and others.

A Live Art Development agency DIY workshop given by Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari

in 2012 ‘ aimed to investigate when the use of self as one’s material becomes

indulgent, therapy inflicted on the public, or simply uninteresting to anyone else except

the artist themselves.'

Live art and theatre appear to dance rather closely together when performers use their

own life as the material for their work. It therefore follows that the above debate within

Live Art is also relevant to theatre makers working with autobiography.

We noted that increasingly artists, Bryony Kimmings being only one example, are

programmed within both Live Art and theatre festivals and that this blurring, although

exciting, brings its own set of problems.

Isn't it theatre's place to demand something different to Live Art? Doesn't a theatre

audience have expectations of narrative, be they unconventional or not? The

emphasis that arose was not only a concern for one's audience but also a concern for

a wider social and cultural perspective. We heard personal gripes about ‘confessional’

work that didn't take into consideration the subject matter's place within wider

frameworks. Art's role was not simply to ‘splurge’ our experiences at an audience but

rather to take ‘the personal’ and sculpt it into something more… well, artful.

Without getting into a discussion of what art and therefore theatre is we are able to

take these concerns and see how artists have successfully used them and even

incorporated them into their work. We discussed shows where the concept of

subjectivity and truth were dissected and used to inform the drama. We heard of one

show that was billed as a ‘fictional autobiographical tale’ and we discussed Caroline

Horton's ‘Mess’ where the trap of a ‘neat ending’ was highlighted and obliterated,

forcing the audience to witness the disconnect between theatrical presentation and

autobiographical realism.

What was exciting about this session was that we sat as a group of theatre makers

and appeared to have all engaged and challenged these concerns within our practise.

The nature of autobiographical work forces us to analyse our objectives. It is stories

from our own life that we've chosen to tell and therefore there is no one else to blame

if the work doesn't resonate. As such it is an opportunity for us, as artists, to come up

against ourselves and make demands. Those demands should be the same as the

demands we expect from any work we respect. It is these demands that will shape

what we make - they are the very centre of our artistic practise.

Actors and performers are increasingly taking ownership of their autonomy outside of

traditional theatres and making solo and/or autobiographical work. The marriage of

Live Art and theatre is a symptom of this. As such, theatre in the UK is currently rich in

its diversity, an ecosystem with longevity and an increasingly audible scuttle of



live art, Live Art, Solo work, Confessional theatre, Autobiographical work, Cultural

relevance, cultural relevance, autobiographical work, solo work