The Theatre Activism Research Group is concerned with research into all forms of performance, both historical and contemporary. Our research-active staff are currently involved in a variety of projects. Some of what we do impinges on other cultural forms (such as the novel, film, fine art) while some of it is “purely” theatrical.
Our research specialisms cut across several overlapping areas, and while colleagues continue to pursue a diverse range of projects, a few key themes have emerged over the years. These include
Theatre, performance and society
Colleagues in the Theatre Activism Research Group have explored a range of issues concerning the various ways in which theatre and performance relate to key social issues. Gender has always been an important item on Loughborough’s research agenda, and researchers have published a range of books and articles on feminist theatre and on theatre and masculinity. Other issues of social and personal identity have also formed a focus of our work: in particular race, age, nationhood and the public sphere. Members of the group are also actively exploring ways in which an understanding of narrative and performance may help to address some of the major challenges facing society today.
The Research Group has a strong interest in the relationship between theatre and popular culture. This includes at times mediated performance (film, television, and multimedia performance) but the main focus is on the live event. Popular performance in this sense is performance that is rooted in the present moment, that sets up a direct connection between performer and audience and allows the audience to take an active role in the performance. With this in mind, research group members explore the meanings and significance of popular forms ranging from late nineteenth-century Grand Guignol plays to the history of conjuring, from Mexican street performances to puppet shows, and from storytelling to standup comedy.
Dramatic literature: texts, contexts and analyses
Our members include both textual analysts and textual editors of classic and contemporary dramatic works, ranging from Goldsmith to Tennessee Williams, from Shakespeare to Martin McDonagh, from the classical to the avant-garde. Members of the Research Group are also playwrights and theatre-makers in their own right, writing and staging plays and performances for stage, radio and site-specific venues and events.
The Research Group is involved in a very wide range of individual projects (see individual research pages for details). Two of the multidisciplinary and multi-institutional collaborative projects on which Research Group colleagues are currently working are detailed below.
Organised by the Politicized Practice, Anarchism and Theatre Activism Research Groups, Re-imagining Citizenship will be showcased as part of the Venice Biennale, a leading event showcasing contemporary art from around the world.
The interactive exhibition brings together a range of audio-visual and text-based responses to questions about new forms of citizenship and civic participation. It asks whether citizenship can be reconfigured without subjection.
Students, researchers and artists from the University and beyond have contributed to the project.
A Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book and Re-imagining Citizenship Living Archive online archive has been created as part of the on-going project.
The book features 30 contributors who have designed a range of different activities, inviting readers and visitors to the exhibition, to respond creatively to sets of instructions (using text, video, sound or graphics) and upload them to the Living Archive.
We are involved in a number of initiatives that look at the role of storytelling in today’s digital world and how it might be applied to bring new voices into the public debate around major challenges facing society. The work has grown out of Professor Mike Wilson’s long-standing research into various aspects of storytelling and, in particular, Project ASPECT, a major AHRC-funded project, in collaboration with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, that explored the potential of digital storytelling to support wider public engagement in the climate change conversation. Current threads in this project area include: ‘LIDA: Loneliness in the Digital Age’, (funded by ESRC) exploring the uses of technology and storytelling to support those vulnerable to bouts of episodic loneliness; ‘Digital Dialogues’, which explores the value of creative interventions to support the concept of mutual recovery in the field of mental health; and ‘DRY; Drought Resilience and You’, a four-year project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, seeking to develop a community-based narrative resource for drought planning.
Performance and Wellbeing
Overlapping in part with some of the aspects of the digital storytelling strand, our researchers are also exploring ways in which theatre and performance may contribute to health and well-being. Starting with considerations of theatre and ageing, the performance and well-being project has developed into a wider response to the universal recognition that transformational change in healthcare is needed. Understanding the role of culture in health, well-being and healthcare provision will be central to a successful shift. At present the latter is poorly prepared to respond to the so-called ‘silver tsunami’ of an ageing population, and the accompanying chronic conditions (which rarely manifest as single illnesses: most people have multiple conditions). Reimagining the future of healthcare is a significant challenge - but one that the Arts and Humanities are well placed to shape and inform.
Mary Brewer, Staging Whiteness, Wesleyan University Press
Mary Brewer, ‘Battling the Legions of the Ungodly: Alternative American Drama and the Vietnam War’, Comparative American Studies, 9, 35-54
Mary Brewer, ‘Offerings on the Altar of National Pride: Pioneer Plays and American Identity’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 31: 243-58
Bob Brocklehurst, ‘Scratching BAC’, video (Prague Quadrennial)
Bob Brocklehurst, Excessive Narratives: Georges Bataille, Self-Sacrifice & the Communal Language of the Yucatec Maya (ISBN 0-9551829-4-8)
Bob Brocklehust and Dan Watt Performance Research, 15:1 Special Number ‘Memento Mori’
Fred Dalmasso (ed.), Syncope in Performing and Visual Arts (Le Manuscrit)
Fred Dalmasso, Retrait de l’image et syncopolitique, in Syncope in Performing and Visual Arts, ed. by Fred Dalmasso and Stéphanie Jamet (Le Manuscrit), pp. 227-241
Fred Dalmasso, Remote Spectating: Drone Images and the Spectacular Image of Revolt, in Performing Antagonism, ed. by Tony Fisher Eve Katsouraki (Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 209-229
Fred Dalmasso, Koltès et la violence du rythme, in Violences et Désirs dans l’oeuvre de Koltès et le théâtre contemporain, Recherches Textuelles n°12, ed. by André PetitJean et Raymond Michel (CREM), pp. 79-88.
Fred Dalmasso, Musical realisations: a performance-based translation of rhythm in Koltès’ Dans la solitude des champs de coton’, in Staging Translation: Text and Theatre Practice, ed. by Roger Baines, Christina Marinetti and Manuela Perteghella (Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 49-71
Fred Dalmasso, Badiou’s Spectator-Subject and Fireworks Politics, in Performance Research, Volume 18, No. 1 - 'On Fire’, pp. 77-83
Fred Dalmasso, (with Roger Baines), A Text on Trial: the translation and adaptation of Adel Hakim's Exécuteur 14, in Translation and Conflict, Special Issue of Social Semiotics, Volume 17 Issue 2, pp. 229-256.
Catherine Rees, Representing Acceptability: Power, Violence and Satire in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore’, in Performing Violence in Contemporary Ireland, ed. by Lisa Fitzpatrick (Carysfort), pp. 85-103
Catherine Rees (ed.), Changes in Contemporary Ireland: Texts and Contexts (Cambridge Scholars’ Press)
Catherine Rees, ‘Sarah Kane’, in Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s, ed. by Aleks Sierz (Methuen), pp. 112-37
Carolyn Scott-Jeffs 21 Conversations with a Hairdresser (radio-play), BBC Radio 4
Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, Jesus, The Devil and a Kid Called Death (radio-play), BBC Radio 4
Carolyn Scott-Jeffs, 15 Ways to Leave your Lover (radio-play), BBC Radio 4
Mike Wilson, (with Richard J. Hand) London’s Grand-‐Guignol and the Theatre of Horror, ‘Studies in Performance’ Series, University of Exeter Press (Shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize)
Mike Wilson, Luzel’s Folk Tales of Lower Brittany (translated texts with critical introduction), ‘Fairy-‐Tale Studies’ series, Wayne State University Press (forthcoming)
Mike Wilson ‘Discussing the Weather: Digital Stories, Communities and the Climate Change Conversation’ (with Karen Lewis), Proceedings of the People and the Planet 2013 Conference, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Nigel Wood, ‘Civic Humanism’: Said, Brecht, and Coriolanus’, in Towards a New Literary Humanism, ed. by Andy Mousley (Macmillan), pp. 212-27
Re-imagine, participate, respond! Help us develop and share new, creative approaches to citizenship!
Re-imagining Citizenship is a collaborative project initiated by the Politicized Practice/Anarchism/Theatre Activism Research Groups based at Loughborough University.
The Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book/Re-imagining Citizenship Living Archive forms part of an ongoing dialogue around themes related to art and political activisms. Since 2014, artists, researchers and associates of the three Research Groups have organised exhibitions, installations, performances and participatory events to explore the potential for art practices to re-imagine citizenship. These culminated in a series of activities during in March 2019, including the production of the Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book which has thirty different contributions, inviting readers to respond creatively to sets of instructions (using text, images, video or audio) and to upload them to the Living Archive on re-imagining.org.
From 11 May to 24 November 2019, the Re-imagining Citizenship project will be exhibited at Palazzo Mora at the European Cultural Centre as part of the Venice Biennale. Contributors to the Re-imagining Citizenship Activity Book will run a series of related workshops throughout the exhibition period. Come and join us there!
From June to September, the Re-imagining Citizenship project will also be exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary.
19 May 2018, Loughborough University London, UK
Stages of Utopia and Dissent : 50 years on…
15 May 1968: the Odeon theatre in Paris is occupied by students and becomes the insurgent headquarters where every night militants recount the days' action in occupied factories to an audience of people camping in the auditorium. 15 June 1968: the Odeon theatre is cleared by the CRS forces, nothing remains but one banderole “solidarité avec les travailleurs en lutte” symbolising the general strike voted in May by theatre practitioners in solidarity with the workers’ struggle. While the May revolt did not radically change workers’ conditions, it perennially inscribed some of the boldness and inventiveness of the 1960s in performing arts upon the French stage: a theatre of bodies rebelling against the established order and inviting the audience to be involved as creative participants and not as mere consumers anymore. The same spirit led to the creation, a year later, of the Centre universitaire expérimental de Vincennes, where students could create their own individualised cross-disciplinary curriculum and were taught by thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Alain Badiou or Hélène Cixous. There were other students protesting against wars or fundamental liberties in other parts of the world at the time, but youth rebellion was never as mythologised as that of the French students’ fight against institutional oppression.
The effects were felt across the Channel, too – but the nature of those effects was, and remains, disputed. It certainly galvanised the growth of a theatrical counter-culture which encompassed agit-prop and T-i-E, community theatre and performance art, childrens’ theatre and the avant-garde. For some, like Catherine Itzin May 1968 was the high point of “a historic year which … clearly marked the end of an era in a historically unprecedented fashion and the beginning of a period of equally unprecedented political consciousness and activism.” Howard Brenton saw it rather differently and much less positively: “May 1968 was crucial…” he said. “[It] disinherited my generation in two ways. First it destroyed any remaining affection for official culture… But it also, secondly, destroyed the notions of personal freedom, anarchist political action. And it failed. It was defeated. A generation dreaming of a beautiful utopia was kicked – kicked awake and not dead. I’ve got to believe not kicked dead. May 68 gave me a desperation I still have.”
50 years on… where are we? What remains of the dream of a possible union of students and workers in protest? What remains of autogestion and emancipatory education? What remains of theatre inventiveness and sedition? What remains of a need for participatory audiences? What remains of utopia and dissent?
Wednesday 25 April 2018, 1pm-3pm – Martin Hall MHL117a/b
What does Citizenship mean in the 21st century? Protest, papers, politics
Dr Nina Power, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy University of Roehampton, London
This talk will example the technical and activist definitions of citizenship in relation to the possibility of protest, belonging and precarity. How do these elements combine and pull apart when we think about questions of asylum, public debate and the freedom
of assembly? Drawing on philosophy, politics and law, this paper will suggest that we need to understand citizenship as a constant set of antagonistic relations.
Nina Power teaches Philosophy at the University of Roehampton andis the author of multiple articles on politics, culture, philosophy andfeminism. She is a founding member of Defend the Right to Protest, a campaign group set up in the the wake of the student protests of late 2010/early 2011 in opposition to the harsh police tactics and criminalisation of protesters that occurred on these and subsequent protests. She is a corresponding editor for Historical Materialism and is on the organising committee for Marxism in Culture. She writes for many magazines and newspapers, including The Wire, frieze, Strike! and The Guardian.
Wednesday 22 November 2017, 12.00pm || Martin Hall MHL 0.07
Re-imagining Citizenship Stéphanie Jamet(Institut des Beaux-Arts de Besançon) and co-editor, with Fred Dalmasso of recently published Syncope in Performing and Visual Arts, 2017, Le Manuscrit
Stephanie Jamet abstract 22-Nov-2017