Where are today’s theatre visions for a better tomorrow? 

Convener(s): Dominic Campbell (The Home Of The Bewildered; [email protected])

Participants: Glioria Lind, Jonathon Petherbridge, Niamh McCann, Jo Turner, Nick Coupe, Jack Klaff, Lynette Moran,  and others…… 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The discussion was around theatres roles in creating imaginative alternatives provoked by a perceived re-emergence of theatre engaged with societal issues either overtly (It’s about X) or inherently (e.g the style/form/aesthetic/ relationship between performer and audience).


So here are the bullets:

Began talking about structures; the way we engage people

Is the structure of a performance a reflection of the way we consume entertainment

The re-emmergence of issues in the public domain – eg feminism

How do you make things that are not socially acceptable – “old activism in new ways” joy with entertainment/silliness/ frivolous and serious

Unlimited Theatre co – using online connections to open up possibilities for how audiences to engage – eg taking the story or aspects of it and developing it themselves

“Story is the killer App” (application as in iphone)

“I’ve got issues with issues” overt content is a turn off

The audiences right to reply- in the nature of the work or via chat room

“Theatre is dialogue”

Are we getting smarter about the way we play with audiences – cf Punchdrunk, Coney, SlungLow and the affect of gaming


Are we just really manipulative in a different way, creating the illusion of allowing the audiences decision making


Is this a reflection of  the tailoring of products eg “Your burger cooked your way”

Allowing the audience to engage with the process the makers are going through (eg Phelim introducing Panic to the audience by telling them what’s about to happen) also allows you to take risks/fail which in itself has a fascinating tension


In Theatre unlike the other arts the artist is present

So – should we give ourselves a break?

Do we fell guilty cos we have a good time making stuff and is this why we sometimes think its got to “hurt”?

Is allowing ourselves to enjoy what we’re doing, to take pleasure in it a political shift?

The re-emergence of Joan Littlewoods notions – funpalace/itinerant national theatres

Exchange can happen in any environment – examples from all sorts of practice, some about shifting contexts

Liz lerman’s “hiking the horizon” see www.danceexchange.org

Is allowing ourselves to make it easier to do a way of opening up locked issues

“Talk is the new rock and roll” – the new growth of public debate, theatrical spaces addressing something missing in other areas of Civic life

“Theatre is Society debating with itself” – But are we talking to ourselves?

An individuals internal conflict sometimes results in their creating work – a form of processing internal discussion

Change isn’t just about the content but about presenting – what/when/where/how/context

The evolution of story – write as you think –interested in telling story but also in how its told –HBO’s subversion of older ways of telling stories

Is it a story or an experience?

Difference between telling and showing

No two audiences are the same – the gradually increasing diversity of audiences. The need for older people and a historical perspective and time. Change takes time

The story appropriate to the age

Other references; The Square/ Una Mc Kevitt’s Victor and Gord/Tim Crouch/Complicite