Emerging themes in theatre-making

Looking at performance now, I’m exercised by what the world of performance is about. It feels as if it’s changing – witness Mark Lawson’s recent comments in “The Guardian” where he discusses the relationship between TV and stage acting. But it’s not just about the relationship with TV but all of the mediated world. The extent to which young people (in particular) use mobile technology to interact with the world. The use of the IPod (and before it the Walkman) to create a soundtrack to lived experience, and by implication subjecting it to alteration.

Modern performance has a tendency to blur distinctions between actor and audience; performer and technician; scenographer and scenographee (to coin a neologism). The impact of opening out the culture of British arts allows in carnival, street performance, music festivals, rock and gospel into the canon of performance. the role of the writer is challenged by devising; Forum theatre subtly undermines authority in other ways.

The debate started by Tessa Jowell’s 2004 essay and the Arts Council centres round a dichotomy between aesthetic and instrumental views of the arts. The response from Demos is a little more nuanced.

However, it might be useful to regard theatre now as a number of projects. These might be an approach to defining contemporary genres. Here is a suggestion (the list isn’t meant to be complete):

  • exploration and transmission of a heritage
  • new writing that explores the state of the nation; or the human condition (what Aleks Siertz famously referred to a “Me and my mates theatre” – New Theatre Quarterly (2004), 20: 79-83 Cambridge University Press
    Copyright © 2004 Cambridge University Press)
  • Theatre for young people, and theatre by young people.
  • Theatre from communities (whether geographic, ethnic, of gender attitude or sexuality)
  • Music-based theatre and opera
  • Dance theatre and physical theatre

Further thoughts

  • Theatre event as an expression of culture
  • Theatre and reality
  • Changing definitions of quality

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