Savas Patsalidis[1]


Responding to the gradual disempowerment of many components of the artistic and social ecosystem, many artists working across forms, contexts and space, have been trying for sometime now to open up new artistic models, to discover new languages for the representation of ideas, new ways of activating audiences and their senses, and new strategies for reinventing public life and re-defining subjectivity. After years of marginalization, politics has gradually come back onto the stage. We can observe this process in the body-based artwork of Italian performer Franko B, the engagement with the extraordinary body in the works of Goat Island, Candoco and Pippo Delbono, DV8’s concern with questions of identity and Spanish visual artist La Ribot’s scenic works, which exist at the intersection of live art, performance and video and raise questions about the economy of the spectacular, the art market, the temporal, spatial and conceptual limits of dance and the role of the artist. We see it, too, in Argentinean Rodrico Garcia’s street-life inspired physical theatre, the performative lectures articulated around visual or auditory documents (such as video recordings, diaries and audio archives) by the Lebanese actor, director and playwright Rabih Mroue, the overblown style of Sydney Front’s political theatre, with its carnivalesque aesthetic, the reflexivity of Rimini Protokoll’s different styles (theatre, film, documentary and painting) and, finally, in all those groups which have re-discovered the performative potential of food culture. A diverse range of practitioners have opened up the field and its reception, to the point that we now talk about “theatre beyond theatre.”

All papers selected for publication in the conference section of Critical Stages come from the IATC Congress in Warsaw (2012) and underline the importance of spatial as well as aesthetic (re)arrangement of theatre and how this affects audience reception and theatre’s own communication dynamics. Maria Helena Serodio’s paper concentrates on Luis Castro’s “perfinst”, a combination of performance (body art) and installation (visual art), which is mostly realized away from standard theatrical spaces (i.e an art gallery, a warehouse or a laboratory of the former Faculty of Veterinary Science). Magdalena Golaczynska discusses certain Lower Silesian artistic ventures (by Legnica Modrzejewska Theatre, Przemysław Wojcieszek and Ad Spectatores Theatre, among others), which take audiences away from the city into non-traditional theatre sites and challenge their ingrained stereotypes and expectations.

Michel Vais, in the only francophone paper included here, analyzes the spectacle Projet Blanc, which was orchestrated by its author and director Olivier Choiniere on November the 3rd, 2011 and took place in various locations in the city of Montreal. 76 spectators observed the spectacle and simultaneously listened to the author’s political commentary. Brent Meersman claims that the legacy of decades of segregation has meant that much of South African theatre still “remains a whites-only pastime, often dangerously close to becoming a museum art.” The vast majority of blacks, he argues, have no desire to go to the theatre, not because they hate it but because sitting silently in uniform rows in the dark is culturally peculiar for them. Meersman believes that as long as the majority of South Africans do not take ownership of the country’s theatre spaces, nothing will change. Finally, in my paper, I try to sum up what is going on by claiming that what makes the art of many contemporary performers political is the fact that they all seem to be very alert to ideas of context and site and also very attentive to the complexities of the sophistication of contemporary audiences, to cultural values, identities and expectations. They are political because they invest in ideas of immediacy and reality and create new spaces for their audiences to re-consider what it means to be here, now, at this moment, to participate (in a theatre beyond the theatre).


[1] Savas Patsalidis is Professor of theatre history and theory in the School of English, in the Graduate School of the Theatre Department of Aristotle University (Greece) and the Drama School of the State Theatre of Northern Greece. He is the author of nine books on drama criticism/theory and co-editor of another ten. He is also the theatre reviewer for the daily newspaper Aggelioforos. He is a member (and for two years vice president) of ITI (International Theatre Institute, Athens), of the Hellenic Association of Theatre Critics, of the editorial board of Critical Stages, member of the City of Thessaloniki Theatre Board and president of the committee for the best theatrical translation prize.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email