The idea of merging western and Indian performing traditions through the performance of King Lear by a Kathakali company promised to be a viable experiment in intercultural practice – yet it proved entirely alien to Indian audiences initiated in Kathakali, and baffling when brought before the cosmopolitan throngs of the Edinburgh Festival. Here, Suresh Awasthi, former chairman of the National School of Drama in Delhi, analyzes the misconceptions which, in his view, fatally flawed the production – setting it within the context of its parent performance tradition, which permits development and change within a framework of basic thematic stability, but is unable to appropriate new texts. When, as in this case, the attempt is made, what results is a mistranslation of performance codes between two cultures. In the course of his argument, Suresh Awasthi provides a useful summary and analysis of traditional Kathakali conventions, and in conclusion describes some productions from the ‘classical avant-garde’ which have successfully explored an intercultural approach without detriment to either of the traditions involved.
Is there a specific lesbian theatre aesthetic? If so, is butch and femme at the heart of it? Or androgyny? Or the freedom-confinement dynamic? Or, on another level, distancing role from ‘essential being’, and ‘woman’ and ‘man’ as social constructs from male and female as biological entities? By focusing on a number of lesbian texts, including her own work, Nina Rapi explores both the theory and practice of an emerging aesthetic that reveals the ‘performance of being’, seeking to ‘shift the axis of categorization’, and so to create a new and exciting theatre language. Nina Rapi is a playwright and translator whose theatre work includes Ithaka (Riverside Studios, June 1989; Link Theatre, staged readings, April 1992; published in Seven Plays by Women, 1991), Critical Moments, a trilogy of shorts (Soho Poly Theatre, June 1990), Johnny Is Dead (First One Person Play Festival, Etcetera Theatre, March 1991), Dreamhouse (Oval House and Chat's Palace, April-May 1991), Dance of Guns (touring production, including King's Head and Jackson's Lane Theatres, April-May 1992), and Dangerous Oasis (Finborough, March 1993).
In exploring the relationship between situationist theory and theatre in the period of the ‘counter-culture’ in Britain, the following article seeks to provide an account of the ‘spectacularization’ of political action through the language and forms of drama. The relatively neglected work of Raoul Vaneigem is examined for its treatment of theatricality as one of the organizing discourses of the spectacle, and the suggestion that ‘drama’ is a constant choreographic presence in the social world is explored alongside related ideas concerning the dramatization of everyday life in the work of Raymond Williams and Aida Hozic. Attempts to ‘disrupt the spectacle’ through political action during the period of the counter-culture are discussed in relation to this material. Graham White is Lecturer in English at King's College, University of London, and has been Literary Manager of the Finborough Theatre since 1990.
This article continues the debate initiated by Brian Parker, who in NTQ24 (1990) offered a critique of the new Oxford Shakespeare, and one of its editors, Stanley Wells, who responded in NTQ 26 (1991) with a defence of his departure from traditional practices of textual conflation. Here, Graham Holderness and Bryan Loughrey suggest that, on a closer examination, there is evidence that editorial intervention and conflation have been regularly employed in the Oxford edition: and in arguing against all such attempts to reconstruct ‘authoritative’ texts, they propose that, in their inevitable absence, the originals present the closest we are likely to approach to recreating the collaborative theatrical practice of Shakespeare's time. In illustrating the effects of editorial intervention from a close comparative examination of particular passages, they suggest, for example, that the stage directions make a shovel a likelier object of Hamlet's graveside contemplation than Yorick's skull. Graham Holderness, newly-appointed Professor and Dean of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, and Bryan Loughrey, Research Director at Roehampton Institute, have recently begun, through the Centre for Textual Studies, a programme of publishing accessible reprints of the important early editions, of which the first three have now appeared from Harvester Wheatsheaf.
In his earlier article, ‘Poaching in Thatcherland: a Case of Radical Community Theatre’, (NTQ34, May 1993), Baz Kershaw explored the work of the regional touring group EMMA during the 1970s, looking in particular at the quality of ‘performative contradiction’ which enabled it, for example, to make a subversive political statement within the ostensibly safe ambience of a play steeped in rural nostalgia. Here, he explores other paradoxes of that era of burgeoning alternative and community theatre activity in the years before Thatcher, assessing the role and the ‘hidden agenda’ of the funding bodies, and analyzing and contrasting the working methods, aims, and resources of two of their very different clients – the ‘national’ fringe company Joint Stock, and the small-scale ‘reminiscence theatre’ group, Fair Old Times. Although both groups were engaged in the ostensibly radical and oppositional theatre practice which eventually led to their closures, there was, notes Kershaw, an increasing tendency by the funding bodies to judge the work of the latter by the more amply endowed standards of the former. Baz Kershaw, who lectures in Theatre Studies at Lancaster University, wrote for the original Theatre Quarterly on the work of Fair Old Times's ‘parent’ company, Medium Fair (TQ30, 1978), and has put the present studies into a broader context in his most recent book, The Politics of Performance: Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention (Routledge, 1992). He is co-author, with Tony Coult, of Engineers of the Imagination (Methuen, 1983), a study of Welfare State, and has also contributed to Performance and Theatre Papers.
An earlier version of this paper was written by Harriet Walter in December 1991 for the second Divina Conference in Torino, in response to an invitation to speak from the actress's point of view about playing Shakespeare's women. In the event, she ranged much more widely across the typology of women's roles in the theatre, and the actress's response to their challenges – and limitations. The paper has since been delivered, in roughly the present form at the University of Cambridge Graduate Drama Seminar in February 1992, and in March 1992 was read in extract and discussed on a BBC Radio programme in the Art Works Series for the Open University. Opposite, Lizbeth Goodman sets the paper in the context of Harriet Walter's theatrical career.
This paper explores some of the many factors which affect the way in which the critical response to a production is made manifest. Using the reception of Timberlake Wertenbaker's The Love of the Nightingale and Our Country's Good as case studies, Susan Carlson contrasts the enthusiastic response to the first production of the latter play at the Royal Court, where its supposed celebration of the redemptive effects of theatricality were widely acclaimed, with the subjection of the former to the ‘atavistic guilts of male theatre reviewers’. Examining the reception of later productions – and even the West End transfer – of Our Country's Good, she proceeds to show how different theatres, companies, and senses of cultural, sexual, and national identity shaped ever-changing attitudes towards what was presumed to be the same play. Susan Carlson, whose article ‘Comic Collisions: Convention, Rage, and Order’ appeared in NTQ12 (November 1987), is Professor of English at lowa State University, and the author of Women of Grace: James's Plays and the Comedy of Manners (1985) and Women and Comedy: Rewriting the British Theatrical Tradition (1991). She is now working on issues of performance and collaboration in contemporary theatre, and writing about the work of the Omaha Magic Theatre and the playwriting of Karim Alrawi.
Whereas the director of a play in performance never ventures more than a provisional interpretation, content with its truth at a particular moment in time, literary critics have until relatively recently presented their judgements as definitive. Jan Kott, who has probably had greater influence over the living theatre than any other critic of his generation, is closer kin to the director in his acceptance that any written judgement of a play also stands open to redefinition. Thus, his first view of A Midsummer Night's Dream, offered in his seminal Shakespeare Our Contemporary in 1965, was reconsidered some fifteen years later in the title essay of The Bottom Translation. Now, in a third major essay on the play, Kott addresses the issue of ‘translation’ in relation to the practicalities of the Elizabethan theatre, and the likelihood that the mechanicals, doubling as the fairies, were played by boys brought in for the wedding celebration where it is thought to have been first performed. Jan Kott, who has been an advisory editor successively of Theatre Quarterly and New Theatre Quarterly since 1971, has most recently published The Gender of Rosalind and The Memory of the Body: Essays on the Theatre and Death (Northwestern University Press, 1992). Next year NTQ plans to celebrate his eightieth birthday in a special issue, NTQ40, for which appropriate contributions are invited.
‘Theatre’, Eugenio Barba has said, ‘is a possibility of shaping revolt’. Barba touched upon this belief in NTQ16 (1988), and he professed it again with considerable passion at the conclusion of the seventh public session of the International School of Theatre Anthropology (ISTA) in April 1992. Directed by Barba and hosted by the Centre for Performance Research (CPR), the ‘Brecon ISTA’ was held in two parts – Working on Performances East and West, a practical exploration at Christ College, Brecon, from 4 to 10 April, being followed by a conference on 10 and 11 April at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, on Fictive Bodies, Dilated Minds, Hidden Dances. In the following exploration of the particular possibilities which theatre anthropology creates for revolt, Nigel Stewart, Lecturer in Theatre Studies at Lancaster University, considers Barba's direction of work in progress at the Brecon ISTA in terms of Derrida's and Kristeva's theories of the sign. Integral to this is an analysis of the relation between bios and logos – the ‘pre-expressive’ work of the body and the meanings which that work can produce – which is relevant to body-based performance theory and practice in general.
This article continues NTQ's explorations, commenced in NTQ18 (1989) and NTQ23 (1990), of the interactions between theatrical performance and emerging views of nature coming out of the ‘new sciences’. Here, Michael Vanden Heuvel argues that analogies between quantum science and performance are productive mainly in reference to work which investigates the nature of perception, and which foregrounds the spectator's awareness of the ‘event-ness’ of theatrical performance. Models drawn from the new science of ‘chaotics’, on the other hand, appear more applicable to performances which seek to move beyond phenomenology into the sphere of cultural discourse. He offers as an example of this ‘post-quantum’ theatre the work of the renowned New York collective the Wooster Group, whose performances create a dialogics between order and disorder which acts to map dynamic interactions between hegemony and difference in American culture. Michael Vanden Heuvel is Assistant Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Humanities at Arizona State University. His Performing Drama/Dramatizing Performance: Alternative Theatre and the Dramatic Text was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1991, and he has written articles and reviews for Theatre Journal and Contemporary Literature.
By way of introduction to the interview which follows with Joan Lipkin, director and playwright of That Uppity Theatre in St Louis, Missouri, Lizbeth Goodman here provides a context for the discussion of what she calls ‘theatres of choice’ – plays, feminist or otherwise, which deal with the issue of reproductive rights, now being actively challenged in the United States and under threat elsewhere. She looks at the history of legislative change and reaction in the United States, and in particular at the Supreme Court decision in the ‘Webster case’, which represented a victory for the neo-conservative movement. Among theatrical responses to this were Lipkin's ‘pro-choice musical comedy’, He's Having Her Baby, in which gender role-reversal and comic stereotypes were employed in an attempt to reach audiences in St Louis – the city at the centre of the Webster controversy. Lizbeth Goodman, who lectures in literature for the Open University, has published a sequence of feminist theatre interviews in New Theatre Quarterly, and her ‘Feminst Theatre in Britain: a Survey and a Prospect’ appeared in NTQ33 (February 1993). She is the author of Contemporary Feminist Theatres (Routledge, 1993).
How do modern archeological discoveries mesh with and affect present views of ancient theatrical techniques – specifically, of the interrelationship between performers and audience? Looking especially at the ways in which the audience itself was able to interact through the construction of the areas devoted to its own accommodation and circulation, Leslie du S. Read here blends narrative comment and photographic illustration to create a picture of the essential sociability of ancient theatre spaces – an aspect usually ignored by scholars primarily concerned with dramaturgical techniques. Leslie du S. Read, who is presently Head of the Drama Department at the University of Exeter, has for a number of years been researching both visible and known remains of classical theatres, and writing on the social context of stagecraft. He has at present a collection of over 4,000 slides of some 300 theatres, and is in the final stage of completing a history and guide to ancient theatre sites. All photographs in the present article were also taken by the author.
Joan Lipkin, playwright, poet, and theatre director, has won considerable critical acclaim – and some calculated abuse – for the political work of her company, That Uppity Theatre, in St Louis, Missouri. Her role-reversing pro-choice musical, He's Having Her Baby, provided the focal point for the preceding article, and one of her earliest pieces, Half-Time, about football in American life, performed in front of a bank vault, launched the city's alternative space movement. Her other better-known pieces include Some of My Best Friends Are …, Love and Work and Other Four-Letter Words, Will the Real Foster Parents Please Stand Up? and Small Domestic Acts. To support her theatre work over the years, Lipkin has worked in roles as various as waitress, art critic, journalist, and television producer: initially trained as a historian, she has also taught at university level for ten years. She is, in her own words, ‘always a rabble-rouser, that's been in the family history for a while’. Lizbeth Goodman interviewed Lipkin in Canada, during the ‘Breaking the Surface’ festival and conference at the University of Calgary in November 1991.
The paratheatrical form here described as ‘Invisible Theatre’ has been little investigated by the English-speaking academic world, beyond a nod in the direction of the work of Augusto Boal. In the following article, Martin Maria Kohtes suggests that the silent interlacing of art and life in ‘Invisible Theatre’ has historical and theoretical implications which extend beyond the specifics of ‘theatre for the oppressed’ or ‘guerrilla theatre’, to call into question our understanding of what constitutes the act of theatre itself. In tracing the history of the concept back to the Weimar Republic, Kohtes develops a hypothesis to explain the visibility of ‘Invisible Theatre’ at specific historic moments – and in so doing he hopes also to illuminate for a wider audience some of the ideas and research methods of German Theaterwissenschaft. Martin Maria Kohtes, who presently lives and works in Berlin and Cologne, studied Theatre Arts at the Freie Universität Berlin, at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. His study of Guerilla Theater: Theorie und Praxis des amerikanischen Strassentheaters was published by Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen, in 1990.