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- Shades of Mediocrity: On Saturday 28 September, 3pm, we hosted Shades of Mediocrity – a performance about the compromises that women make on their artistic ambitions, and about making art with your friends. Lily Levinson is tall with curly ginger hair. Maeve Campbell has dark hair and is 5’ 4” short. Maeve is a creative genius. Lily looks pretty good in a waistcoat. Sound familiar? Using the stories of Simon & Garfunkel and Campbell & Levinson, the piece talks about how the cult of genius excludes women. Shades of Mediocrity is the latest work by Good Friends For A Lifetime. It has been presented at Big Bang and Calm Down Dear at Camden People’s Theatre (March and June 2019), and FEMFEST, Theatre Deli (March 2019), and is supported by Theatre Deli. This presentation was supported by BIGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality), and took place as part of Birkbeck’s One World Festival 2019.
- Scream Queer Murder!: On Thursday 7 November, 6-7.30pm, we staged a panel and discussion considering the “gay” characters in Agatha Christie’s work and the R & D of Scream Queer Murder! by Martin Lewton, recently premiered at the International Agatha Christie Festival 2019. The evening included readings from the play, topped off by a generous dollop of Polari – the secret language gay men used to protect themselves. The contributors were Andrew McKinnon, Theatre Director, and Director of Studies, Institute of the Arts Barcelona, Martin Lewton, Fellow of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Artistic Director of Theatre North and ¡Barcelona Solo! Festival, and author of Scream Queer Murder!, Julius Green, Fellow of Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Olivier award-winning theatre producer, and author of Agatha Christie: A Life in Theatre and How To Produce a West End Show, and Dr JC Bernthal, Panel Tutor, University of Cambridge and Visiting Lecturer, Middlesex University, whose books include Queering Agatha Christie: Revisiting the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
- Dramaturgy as an Act of Civil Disobedience: On Thursday 20 February, 6.30-8.30pm, we welcomed contemporary artists Myah Jeffers, Anthony Simpson-Pike, and Anna Himali Howard for a panel discussion that considered the pathways between theory, practice, and civic engagement in contemporary UK theatre, and explores the twenty-first-century role of the dramaturg. Who, in our contemporary context, has the opportunity to share their stories onstage and why? To what extent can dramaturgy as a discipline help us confront outdated concepts about the role theatre and performance play in our perceptions of ourselves? How might the queering of dramaturgical practice serve to challenge common cultural assumptions about how we tell our stories?
- Myah Jeffers is a dramaturg and currently one of the Literary Associates at The Royal Court. She previously held the post of New Work Coordinator at Talawa Theatre Company, is an alumnus of the Birmingham REP Foundry and has assisted on productions at The Yard Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre and with young peoples’ theatre company, Company Three. Her work is centred on championing and amplifying the voices of Black & Brown people, with a particular focus to queer people of colour. She has a deep-rooted interest in new writing that spans form and has thus dedicated her time towards discovering and nurturing new and exciting writers and makers.
- Anthony Simpson-Pike is a director and dramaturg whose work has been staged at The Gate, The Young Vic, The Royal Court, Southwark Playhouse, and other theatres. He is interested in exploring the political function of performance and questions around identity, power, collaboration, representation and the environment. As a writer, he directed his first play, Camp, and has completed Soho Theatre’s Writers Lab. As a dramaturg he has developed two seasons of work at The Gate Theatre and was selected as a dramaturg for The Royal Court’s International Residency. In 2018 he dramaturged the LTC’s Artist Climate Lab and curated the 2019 lab. He will be leading the Royal Court’s International Project in Jamaica and Barbados and was also invited to be the Visiting Guest Artist at the prestigious Banff International Playwrighting Residency in Canada in 2019.
- Anna Himali Howard is a director and theatremaker. She was Paines Plough’s Trainee Director in 2016 and is an alumnus of the Birmingham REP Foundry. She was recently the Staff Director on SMALL ISLAND at the National Theatre. Her work as a Director includes: I WANNA BE YOURS by Zia Ahmed (Paines Plough/Tamasha); A SMALL PLACE by Jamaica Kincaid (Gate Theatre); ALBATROSS by Isley Lynn for NEW (Paines Plough/ RWCMD/Gate Theatre). As a theatremaker, work includes: JANE ANGER (Yard Theatre Live Drafts), MAHABHARAT/A by Anna Himali Howard and Zarina Muhammad (Camden People’s Theatre), THE BEANFIELD by Breach Theatre (New Diorama/national tour 2016). Anna was Associate Director on FLEABAG by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Drywrite/Soho Theatre international tour).
- Theatre Conversation: Daragh Carville in conversation with Gbolahan Obisesan: On Friday 6 March, 5.30-6.30pm, we hosted a conversation between Daragh Carville and Gbolahan Obisesan, one of the most exciting names in contemporary UK theatre. Winner of the Jerwood Directors Award and the Genesis Fellowship, Gbolahan is also an Associate of the Young Vic Theatre. His work as a playwright includes 2012’s Mad About the Boy (Edinburgh Festival & UK tour), Pigeon English (Bristol Old Vic / Edinburgh Festival), How Nigeria Became: A Story & A Spear that didn’t Work (Unicorn Theatre) and most recently an adaptation of Chigozie Obioma’s Booker Prize nominated novel The Fisherman (Manchester HOME, UK tour, Edinburgh Festival & Arcola Theatre). Work as a director includes Yvette by Urielle Klein-Mekongo (China Plate & Bush Theatre), Cuttin’ It by Charles Danes (Young Vic, Sheffield Crucible, Birmingham Rep & the Royal Court) for which Gbolahan was nominated for an Olivier award, and most recently The Last King of Scotland (Sheffield Crucible).
- For Birkbeck Arts Weeks 2020: Online, we were delighted to present a range of works by our artist Fellows, Centre members, and students. Running from Monday 18 May to Friday 19 June 2020, this year’s festival picked several paths through the work of Birkbeck School of Arts, with several contributions from the Centre for Contemporary Theatre:
- We See You Now
Artist and writer Alinah Azadeh invites you to the edge of a cliff in 2053. Listen to a future myth rooted in our migrant heritage and shifting relationship to land, sea, borders – and time.
- NB: by Hester Chillingworth
NB: is a performative text work about the radical potentials of plurality, shifting, and occupying multiple spaces. The text started its life online and gradually transitioned out into the real world, to exist and move amongst us. Supported by BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality).
- Scratch Night
Scratch Night goes online: a rich collection of new short-form sound and video works from students in Birkbeck’s School of Arts, encompassing terrific solo pieces, poetry, rehearsed readings, adaptations, and audio performances.
- Theatre Blogging
Writer Megan Vaughan discovered theatre blogging just as playwright David Eldridge was giving it up for good. Here, over a week-long email dialogue, they came together to reflect on their changing practices, and to discuss the pasts, presents and futures of writing about theatre on the internet. Plus read an exclusive excerpt from Megan’s latest book.
- Love in the Time of Corona
An archival, memory-based work, Love in the Time of Corona investigates ageing, death, decay, deterioration, disease, and trying to find equanimity during troubled times… Shabnam Shabazi offered a video work and a live one-to-one virtual encounter at home – an intimate, unrepeatable moment after 94 days of solitude and isolation.
- The Mendfulness Clinic
Louise Wilcox’s The Mendfulness Clinic was a one-to-one performance in which artist and audience repaired tattered clothes together, attempting to mend society’s fraying relationship with the fabric we wear in the process. Read Birkbeck’s Carolyn Burdett on being mendful and memoryful with the performance. Plus, read Louise on gendered values in performance-making, in a beautiful text that accompanied her earlier work Crimson Wave—Craft the Resistance (Camden People’s Theatre, 2018).
- GRiT (Graduate Research in Theatre) is our termly research seminar, featuring presentations by visiting scholars, faculty and graduate students. Our programme for 2019-20:
- Wednesday 11 December, 4-5pm (Room 106), Lewis Church (Birkbeck, and independent writer), ‘Unruly Access’
This presentation will discuss how research on the experimental and sometimes seemingly inaccessible topics of experimental theatre practices of the twentieth century, contemporary live art, and subcultures can sit alongside a parallel professional practice as an arts writer and editor concerned chiefly with notions of access. Both have been enriched by the other, and the attempt to address structural issues in the creative sector, (particularly in relation to gender, race, class and disability) can perhaps benefit from a commitment and attention to the uncomfortable, unconventional and occasionally unruly.