How do we make more 'durational theatre', i.e. theatre that lasts a long time in performance, in a culture that generally promotes shorter length theatre? Do we value the artistic experience of long theatre performances??

Tom Bailey, 30 June 2012

Present: Tom Bailey, Roland Oliver, Philip Perry, Kelly Smith.

The discussion starts with the definition of the question... what is durational theatre? What theatre is there out there that is lasting for several hours or days during performance? Not a lot. Hotel Medea was one example, or Robert WIlson/Philip Glass ‘Einstein on the Beach’. We live in a culture that gives a huge amount of value to short work (scratch nights, shorts, hour-long Fringe shows),,, which while these are extremely important in themselves, in the generation of work/participation, are symptomatic of an economy in which it is financially difficult to make work. How might we promote longer scale work without boring people to death? Do we know how to really make work that lasts a long time in performance, and if so why not?

Perhaps it's got something to do with pageantry? How do we construct large-scale pageant works, a la Wildworks? Is there anything wrong with an audience experience where they walk in and out of a theatre experience over several hours, and should this model be promoted as valuable an experience as seeing a play at one sitting.

Or maybe the question was about epic, in terms of making theatre on a large scale. Epic is a contested thing in theatre, but in cultural critical terms is used to define a

national identity or identity of a community. How do you promote a theatre of ‘wow’ (in terms of ‘shit, this is how immense life really is’ rather than ‘wow’, (this is a sensational moment that I'll probably forget).

Of course, as a fringe or emerging artist it is not possible to make work on a larger scale, whatever form this may take. But why does culture not give value to the large scale/epic/long-lasting as a brilliant and transformative thing in itself... how might we lean to make work/ promote the cultural value of work that doesn't make consideration of length of limited performance time, or even begin with asking ‘how long....’?

Much undecided, many interesting things come up.


duration, slowness, pageant, durational theatre, experience, scale, time, epic