Next London Theatre Seminar: 26 April 2018, Postgraduate Panel with Cathy Sloan (RCSSD) and Sarah Bartley (QMUL) **Please note venue change**

Our next London Theatre Seminar will be 26 April 2018 and will be a postgraduate panel with Cathy Sloan (RCSSD) and Sarah Bartley (QMUL).

Owing to the cleaner’s strike at Senate House on 26 April, the seminar will instead take place at Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD, room G10.

As usual, start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

Broderick, Louise, and Bryce

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Pins, Spoons, Bowls and Gongs: The Materiality of Recoverist Performance.

The phrase ‘people, places and things’ is not just the title of Headlong Theatre’s West End production written by Duncan MacMillan, but is most commonly found in the recovery parlance of Twelve Step recovery meetings. For people in early recovery from addiction, previous associations of human and non-human form are potential triggers for relapse. Nonetheless, it is these past associations that form the very materiality of their lived experience. To move beyond addiction must therefore involve a readjustment in the very fabric of one’s relations in the world.

My performance practice and research is underpinned by an interpretation of affect theory which understands our way of being-in-the-world as an ‘ecology of processes’ (Erin Manning, 2013). I explore applied theatre practice as an ‘affective performance ecology’ that considers how the affective experience of theatre-making may contribute to our capacity to affect and be affected. Combined with practices of recovery from addiction, theatrical performance can generate sensation that can open the potential for change by forming newly imagined relations with people, places or things.

As Jane Bennett (2010) highlighted, the narcissistic reflex of human language and thought underestimates the power of the non-human. Similarly, the ‘things’ in MacMillan’s People, Places, Things are primarily a prop for the exposition of the subjective experience of its main character, Emma. Reflecting on two examples of practice (my collaboration with Simon Mason to stage his autobiography Too Far Too High Too Soon and FK Alexander’s radical sound performance Recovery), I analyse how objects associated with addiction and recovery might become affective agents in socially engaged performance, generating a ‘recoverist’ political affect.

Cathy Sloan has worked as a teacher, facilitator and director/theatre-maker. She was Associate and later Artistic Director of Outside Edge Theatre Company, specialising in performance with and by people in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction. Currently she is a PhD candidate at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, exploring an affective ecology of theatre-making that supports practices of recovery. She was awarded the TaPRA essay prize 2017 and is also a co-opted member of the TaPRA post-graduate committee 2018.

‘Sitting Idle’: The Prison Workshop and Economies of Participation

A desire to reconceive of prisons as ‘industrious places of productive work’ was central to the UK Coalition government’s penal reforms (MoJ, 2011: 3). In 2012 the then Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, identified prisoners as ‘simply a wasted resource – thousands of hours of manpower sitting idle’ (Clarke, 2012). In this paper, I examine prison performance projects and interrogate how they intervene in and operate alongside the contentious legal status of the prisoner in relation to work, labour, and remuneration. In doing so, I argue that the figure of the paid prisoner participant is generative for understanding the idiosyncratic economies of participation within applied performance more broadly.

I use histories of labour in prison to reflect on the rhetorical and economic transition of the prisoner from idle to industrious and consider how this relates to discourses of instrumentality in applied performance practice. Against this backdrop I explore practices of payment for participants, increased levels of volunteerism among emerging practitioners, and the reproductive labour of non-public prison performances to reveal how the status of worker and non-worker is subverted in this site. This paper points to the ways in which prison arts projects can reconstitute notions of work and, as such, advocates for increased attention to the economic conditions of participation in applied arts practice.

Sarah Bartley recently completed a PhD in Drama at Queen Mary, University of London. She is a visiting lecturer at Queen Mary; Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; and Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research explores artistic representations of the welfare state, with a particular focus on participatory practices engaging unemployed people. She is also a community arts practitioner and has worked with a number of prison arts organisations including Rideout, Unlock Drama, and Shifting Point. Sarah’s work has been published in Research in Drama Education and has been presented at a number of national and international conferences.

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Performance and Sport Panel: Recorded Talks

Unfortunately, owing to this week’s snowfall across the UK, our two speakers for the Performance and Sport panel hosted by London Theatre Seminar / Dynamic Tensions were unable to travel to give their talks.

However, both Solomon Lennox and Claire Warden were kind enough to record their talks to share with an online audience. Please share!

Towards a Heterotopology of the Boxing Ring on the Contemporary Stage, by Dr P. Solomon Lennox

‘Rest in peace’: performing silence in professional wrestling

Youtube videos for Claire’s Talk:

0:34 (The Undertaker vs. Mankind)

8:44 (The Nexus Invasion — starting at 14:20)

19:19 (Shinsuke Nakamusa Debut)


Next London Theatre Seminar: Theatre and Sport Panel with Solomon Lennox (Northumbria) and Claire Warden (De Monfort)

Dear all,

We are pleased to announce a seminar on Theatre and Sport, in conjunction with the Dynamic Tensions Research Network for Theatre, Performance, Sport, and Physical Culture. Our speakers will be Dr Solomon Lennox of Northumbria University, and Dr Claire Warden of De Monfort University, and the seminar will investigate the theatrical/sportive stage of the boxing and wrestling ring.

It takes place 1 March 2018 in the University of London Senate House (Room G35). As usual, start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

Please note that our panel on Performing Oceans with Arabella Stanger and Matthew Kerr has been postponed.

Theatre and Sport Seminar: Staging the Boxing and Wrestling Ring

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The Royale, by Marco Ramirez. The Old Globe, San Diego

Towards a Heterotopology of the Boxing Ring on the Contemporary Stage

Boxing rings have the potential to be heterotopias, wherein specific and peculiar heterochronic performance practice takes place. Boxing rings as counter-sites are capable of juxtaposing in the single real place several spaces. They are part crisis heterotopia and part heterotopia of deviation; spaces of the illusory and spaces that are other. Boxing rings are paradoxical spaces. They close in on their boxer-occupants to produce feelings of isolation and loneliness, whilst simultaneously providing temporal, sensorial, and spatial openings, which disturb isolating boundaries by producing networks of connection. This paper provides a heterotopology of the boxing ring on the contemporary stage and grapples with the paradoxical nature of boxing rings as heterotopias. The main arguments are framed through a reading of the ring activity of two professional fighters, Naseem Hamed and Sugar Ray Leonard. This is followed by an examination of Marco Ramirez’s The Royale and Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami in order to produce a heterotopology of the boxing ring on the contemporary stage.

Solomon Lennox is Lecturer in Performing Arts at Northumbria University. His research sits within the field of performance studies, particularly performance ethnography, and explores the relationship between physical performance practices (such as training and competing in combat sports) and narrative identity. As a freelance contemporary practitioner, Solomon works with butoh, psychophysical acing approaches, and martial arts-based movement. Solomon has recently worked with Burn the Curtain, a site-specific theatre company that creates immersive performance events. Solomon is the Treasurer of the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments (SCUDD). His research has been supported by the HEA, and he has published in the journals, Theatre Dance and Performance Training, and Sport in Society. Solomon has also produced a chapter for the edited collection, Performance and the Medical Body.

‘Rest in peace’: performing silence in professional wrestling

The ‘squared circle’ of professional wrestling is a space, in Nicholas Sammond’s words, of ‘blood, sweat and spit’. Contemporary professional wrestling is a noisy, visceral performance form full of shouting antagonism, booming pyrotechnics and crashing bodies. Undeniably it is, in Roland Barthes’s famous phrase, a ‘spectacle of excess’.

However, in honour of The Undertaker’s recent Wrestlemania retirement, this paper takes a different tack. While it acknowledges professional wrestling’s raucous, glitzy spectacle, it seeks to uncover another contradictory facet, claiming professional wrestling as a mode that increasingly plays with the notion of silence. As part of the US-based behemoth the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), The Undertaker’s dead man persona has always used silence in interesting ways. But, I suggest, silence is a recurring motif, especially in the modern product. It can be an awkward barrier to successful performance, a means of ‘voicing’ fan displeasure, or, indeed, a key part of a storyline, increasing tension or allowing a stronger focus on the physical action.

This paper explores ideas from Martin Heidegger, Mikhail Bakhtin and Judith Butler, alongside specific moments in professional wrestling history to make a case for the importance of silence. Ultimately silence, once an obstacle to the success of a professional wrestling show, has become a powerful method of creating character, establishing narratives or encouraging ‘heat’. It is also now a potent way of disturbing the contemporary Twitter-led, neon-t-shirt-dominated clatter of modern pro-wrestling.

Claire Warden is Reader in Drama at De Montfort University. Her research interests include modernism, theatre history, performance practice and sport. She is the author of ‘British Avant-Garde Theatre’ (2012), ‘Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction’ (2015), and ‘Migrating Modernist Performance: British Theatrical Travels through Russia’ (2016, funded by the British Academy). She is also co-editor of the 2016 ‘Performance and Professional Wrestling’ and the academic lead for the public engagement project ‘Wrestling Resurgence’.


Next London Theatre Seminar: 1 February 2018 with Giulia Palladini (University of Roehampton)

Dear colleagues,

Our next London Theatre Seminar will take place on 1 February 2018 in the University of London Senate House (Room G34). We are pleased to welcome Dr Giulia Palladini of the University of Roehampton. As usual, start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

Broderick, Louise, and Bryce

The free time of the nameless: on waiting, leisure, and accidental work in times of crisis

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In this lecture, I shall present my current line of research, which is a critical inquiry into modes of production of performance work in contemporary capitalism: a context in which labor is often not recognized as such in the moment of its enactment, but is mostly projected toward the horizon of its potential realization as value. I interrogate such predicament by means of an investigation into twentieth century cultural history, focusing in particular on anomalous, unrecognized or peculiar forms of performance labor, taking place mostly during ‘free time’.

Currently, my project addresses the historical juncture I consider to have first hosted the emergence of this predicament: the 1920s, when both unemployment and the development of the leisure industry reached unprecedented proportions. In this context, I discuss a constellation of case studies in Berlin and New York, in which performance labor appears as a praxis taking place outside of a previously asserted value, on the part of both the performer and the audience. Among them, public dance marathons, talent contests and amateur nights, along with the figures of the Eintänzer and taxi dancer.

In my hypothesis, such forms of engagement with labor have functioned, in different ways, as models for relations that have become prevalent in the historical phase commonly defined as Post-Fordism, when such labor potentiality became structural for an economy primarily based on precarious employment.

Giulia Palladini is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Roehampton (UK). She was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow (2012-2014) at the University of Erfurt, and has taught in various international institutions, such as the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá and SNDO (School for New Dance Development) in Amsterdam. Her research interests include theatre history and critical theory, performance labour and free time, the archive, and materialist theories of artistic production. Her texts appeared in several international journals, and she has collaborated as theorist in a number of critical and artistic projects. Selected publications: The Scene of Foreplay: Theater, Labor and Leisure in 1960s New York (Evanston: Northwestern University Press 2017), Lexicon for an Affective Archive (Bristol: Intellect, 2017, co-editor with Marco Pustianaz).


Next London Theatre Seminar: Dramaturgies of change in Greek theatre: institutions, practices and publics, 11 January 2018

Our first London Theatre Seminar of 2018 will take place on 11 January 2018 in Senate House (Room G34). This is a joint seminar with the European Theatre Research Network, and we are pleased to welcome Gigi Argyropoulou, Philip Hager, and Marissia Fragkou.

As usual, start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

Broderick, Louise, and Bryce

Dramaturgies of change in Greek theatre: institutions, practices and publics

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Panel curated by Marissia Fragkou and Philip Hager
In collaboration with the European Theatre Research Network (University of Kent)

Drawing on the recently published special issue on Greek theatre ‘Dramaturgies of Change: Greek Theatre Now’ (ed. Philip Hager and Marissia Fragkou) in The Journal of Greek Media and Culture (Autumn 2018), this panel seeks to examine contemporary shifting landscapes in Greek theatre and performance practices, specifically focusing on the changing institutional and other frameworks in which theatre and performance are produced vis-à-vis the radical in-crisis restructuring of the social, economic and political fabric in contemporary Greece.

Cultural Imaginaries in transitional times: Emergent Publics, Politics, Hegemonies.
This talk will theorise emergent performance practices as evolving modes of instituent improvisation in response to an ever-changing socio-political landscape. Drawing on the cultural and political landscape of Athens prior and during the years of the economic crisis I will discuss diverse practices that ephemerally destabilised distributions of power by producing new modes of organisation and spatial reconfigurations. Questioning how performance practices might challenge the dominant production of space in this talk I will develop the term ‘destituent spaces’ in order to consider methods that bear the potential to criticality devise forms of ‘instituting otherwise’ – spatializing alternatives to dominant imaginaries and modus operandi. This talk problematises the relation between performance and institutions, resistance and incorporation, infrastructure and ephemerality in order to theorise potential positions cultural workers might seek to institute in the coming years.

Dr. Gigi Argyropoulou is a theorist, curator, artist and lecturer working in the fields of performance and cultural practice based in Athens and London. Gigi has initiated and organised festivals, interventions, conferences, performances, spaces, actions and cultural collaborations both inside and outside institutions. She is a founding member of Green Park, Mavili Collective, Institute for Live Arts Research, and F2 Performance Unit/Mkultra. As a member of Mavili and other collectives Gigi co-initiated/co-organised theatre and cultural occupations, interventions, public programmes and cultural critique actions during the crisis. During the last fifteen years her artistic work has been presented in theatres, festivals and found spaces in Greece, the UK and Europe. She holds a PhD from Roehampton University and publishes regularly in journals, books and magazines. Gigi received the Routledge Prize for PSi18 and Dwight Conquergood Award in 2017. She is the editor (with Hypatia Vourloumis) of the special issue of Performance Research Journal “On Institutions”. Gigi co-initiated the DIY Performance Biennial (Athens, 2016) and co-curated its first edition. https://gigiargyropoulou.wordpress.com/diary/

Hosting cultural memory in contemporary Greece: theatrical frames and practices of remembering
This paper engages with institutional practices that frame the cultural production of memory in contemporary Greece. My point of departure is the ‘ethic of hospitality’ that, I suggest, is the determinant logic of the restructuring of the Greek cultural field; a restructuring that on the one hand is evidenced by the establishment of spaces of culture such as the Onassis Cultural Centre (OCC) and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and their rapidly acquired hegemonic position in the field, and on the other hand is linked to the ongoing (debt-induced) restructuring of the Greek economy since 2010. What kinds of cultural memory, I ask, are hosted in/by this new economy? By focusing on the OCC’s ‘permanent festival’ remit, I seek to discuss how the ethic of hospitality links the local cultural economies to the international festival circuit and its marketplace (consisting of similar institutions around the globe, such as London’s Barbican Centre) and how this might be re-shaping repertoires of memory within this transnational milieu.

Philip Hager is Lecturer in Drama at the University of Kent. He has published on the cultural politics of modern Greek theatre, radical performances and performances of Europeanness. He has co-edited Performances of Capitalism Crises and Resistance: Inside/Outside Europe (Palgrave, 2015) and the special issue ‘Dramaturgies of Change: Greek Theatre Now’ (Journal of Greek Media and Culture, 2017). He is also co-convener of the ‘Inside/Outside Europe’ research network and the Performance, Identity and Community Working Group at TaPRA.

Panel Chair:

Marissia Fragkou is Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her essays have appeared in Contemporary Theatre Review, Performing Ethos and edited volumes on contemporary British and European theatre. Her monograph Ecologies of Precarity in Twenty-First Century Theatre: Politics, Affect, Responsibility will be published by Methuen’s Drama Engage Series. She has co-edited the special issue ‘Dramaturgies of Change: Greek Theatre Now’ (Journal of Greek Media and Culture, 2017). She co-convenes TaPRA’s Performance, Identity and Community Working Group.


Next London Theatre Seminar: 7 December 2017, with Caoimhe Mader McGuinness (Kingston University)

Our next London Theatre Seminar (and the final one for 2017) will take place on 7 December 2017 in Senate House (Room TBC). We are pleased to welcome Dr Caoimhe Mader McGuinness of Kingston University.

As usual, start time is 6:30 PM. The seminar will close at 8:30, to reconvene in a local pub. Wine and refreshments will be served.

We hope to see you there!

Broderick, Louise, and Bryce

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Intempentestive dissensus: reproducing possible proletarian public spheres in You Should See the Other Guy’s Land of the Three Towers

This paper will analyse You Should See the Other Guys performance Land of the Three Towers, a show devised by and with members of the Focus E15 campaign narrating the campaign’s activists’ successful occupation of the Carpenters estate in Newham, East London. The women-led Focus E15 campaign occupied these empty flats in October 2014, angered by the fact that Newham council was refusing to house residents locally whilst letting the estate’s flats decay while waiting for the highest bidder. This proved a successful strategy, as the women obtained many concessions to their demands, including the rehousing of certain families on the estate. Land of the Three Towers’ restages the occupation and subsequent victory, also occasionally deploying the performance as an organising tool. This choice, as well as the use of song, audience participation and site specificity created a piece of work which expanded beyond agit-prop or community theatre, offering a certain amount of self-reflexivity about its own constitution.

As I will argue, certain staging choices in the performance demonstrated not only how certain aspects of the campaign had manifested a form of Rancièrian dissensus but also how the performance might gesture toward an expansive understanding of collectice experience and its representation. Here, the work of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge on the possibilities of a proletarian public sphere offers a productive addition to Jacques Rancière’s arguments around dissensus as the essence of politics. Furthermore, the ways in which both the campaign and its representation in Land of the Three Towers centred on questions of social reproduction – motherhood and childrearing but also cleaning cooking and domestic labour – might also further contribute to an understanding of Rancièrian dissensus grounded in explicit material concerns. I will thus consider how theorisations of the relationship between work, social reproduction and primitive accumulation articulated by Silvia Federici, joined with considerations surrounding artistic labour offered by Dave Beech, might also further the dissensual potential of the performance.

Caoimhe Mader McGuinness is a lecturer in Drama at Kingston University of London. Her research and publications look at the politics of reception (spectatorship, criticism and institutional identities) of contemporary theatre and live art through a Marxist, feminist, queer and post-colonial lens. She also more broadly focuses on the specific histories of Western liberalism as these apply to theatrical production and reception.

Further interests are social reproduction in feminist performance, the 1951 Festival of Britain and Marxist approaches to theatre and performance, especially in the work of the Frankfurt School and Jacques Rancière.

11 January 2018: Joint Seminar with European Theatre Research Network
1 February 2018: Giulia Palladini (Roehampton University)
1 March 2018: Performing Oceans, interdisciplinary panel on dance and English Literature with Arabella Stanger (Sussex) & Matt Kerr (Southampton)
26 April 2018: Postgraduate Panel TBC

Next London Theatre Seminar, 9 November 2017 with Steve Greer (Glasgow): Queer Optimism (and theatre at the end of the world)

Our next London Theatre Seminar will take place on 9 November 2017 in the University of London Senate House (Room TBC but will be posted in the foyer). We are delighted to be welcoming Dr Steve Greer of the University of Glasgow. It starts at 6:30 PM and will close at 8:30 PM, to reconvene at a local pub. Wine and refreshments served.

We hope to see you there!

Every Brilliant Thing

Jonny Donahoe in Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan Macmillan. 

Steve Greer: Queer optimism (and theatre at the end of the world)

This paper reads against accounts of utopia in performance offered by Jill Dolan and Jose Esteban Muñoz to explore the unpredictable relationship between the present and the future explored in early c21st solo performance. If neoliberalism’s preferred subject is characterised by their willingness to anticipate disasters – and task themselves with inventing biographical solutions – works as varied as Deborah Pearson’s The Future Show, Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing and Nando Messias’ The Sissy’s Progress suggest the significance of paradoxically wilful surrender to uncertainty and vulnerability.
Reading these and other performances in the context of contemporary demands for resilient, individuated responsibility, I explore how uncoupling optimism from futurity may allow us to reconsider the present as a space of social and political intervention. This reading of optimism is not straightforwardly affirmative: to borrow from Judith Butler, to acknowledge how we are ‘undone by each other’ is to understand that we do not always survive that encounter intact. If queer optimism elaborates how ‘worlds of transformative politics and possibilities’ (Muñoz 1999: 195) are already available, it also demonstrates their uneven and precarious social distribution.

Dr Steve Greer is Lecturer in Theatre Practices at the University of Glasgow where his research and teaching focuses on the intersection of queer theories, popular cultural and contemporary theatre. He is the author of Contemporary British Queer Performance (2012) and host of The Soloist, an occasional podcast about solo performance and solo performers. His next book is a study of the contentious relationship between solo performance, identity and individuality in neoliberal times.