GRiT: Graduate Research in Theatre is the Centre’s forum for postgraduate students, academics and Fellows to meet, share and discuss current scholarship and research in progress. In 2015-16, we hosted these sessions, which addressed our theme for the year, convention:
Wednesday 21 October, 4-5.30pm, Keynes Library: a discussion of chapters from Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos (2015) and Michel Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics (2008).
New Europe by Jesse Fox in association with Engineer Theatre Collective
If / Then by Lisa Alexander and Hari Marini
No More These Sounds by Pablo Pakula
Migrant Classics by Dominic Glynn
Being European: Before the Referendum: On Saturday 18 June, Camden People’s Theatre presented Being European: Before the Referendum, a day of performances and talks exploring European identity, culture and politics in the run-up to the EU referendum vote. In collaboration with the Inside/Outside Europe Research Network and the European Theatre Research Network, the Centre curated the talks as part of this day-long festival. The talks featured contributions from Natasha Davis (performance artist), Joe Kelleher (Professor of Theatre & Performance, University of Roehampton), Hannah Price (Theatre Uncut), Nadine El-Enany (Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck), Dermot Hodson (Reader in Political Economy, Birkbeck) & Mario Mendez (Senior Lecturer in Law, QMUL).Read more about the programme of performances here.
Theatre Conversation: Worlds Elsewhere: on Tuesday 24 May, we marked the paperback launch of Worlds Elsewhere (Bodley Head, 2015), the critically celebrated book on Shakespeare as a global phenomenon by Centre Fellow Andrew Dickson. Andrew discussed how Shakespeare’s plays have been reimagined in performance all over the world with early modern theatre scholar Sabine Schülting (Freie Universität Berlin).
This year’s Birkbeck Arts Week ran from Monday 16 to Friday 20 May. It featured a huge selection of talks, screenings, performances, symposia and exhibitions. Theatre highlights included:
Theatre Conversation: Approaching socially engaged practice: on Tuesday 10 May, creative producer and Centre Fellow Elizabeth Lynchconvened a discussion to to discuss how artists are approaching the creation of socially engaged practice now. The event asked: as the 2010s unfold, who are the new allies in making socially engaged practice? How do artists know what they are doing is working? What is shifting or changing as a result of artists’ interventions, and what has to be disrupted? Participants included Omar Elerian (Bush Theatre), Alinah Azadeh (artist), Miriam Nelken (Creative Barking & Dagenham) and Simon Poulter (Close & Remote).
Conventions of Proximity in Art, Theatre and Performance: on Thursday 5 & Friday 6 May, we staged a symposium prompted by the currency of the term ‘immersive’ in contemporary culture. The event investigated forms of nearness and distance from numerous perspectives: dramaturgical, curatorial, affective, social, conceptual, virtual, geographical. Over a day and a half, artists and writers shared their work on proximity as an idea and as a practice. From the early modern to the contemporary, in examples drawn from southeast Asia to the global north, contributors explored proximity in relation to a diverse range of topics, including digital networks, architectural design, home, public space, cinema, loneliness, friendship, listening, darkness, museum display, and music. The symposium combined papers, workshops from guest artists in the School of Arts’ studio space, film screenings in Birkbeck Cinema, performance installation and an exhibition of contemporary art in the Peltz Gallery. The opening plenary on Friday 6 May featured contributions from Dr. Alison Green(Central Saint Martins), Professor Nicholas Ridout (Queen Mary) and Professor Victoria Walsh (Royal College of Art), and the proceedings concluded with a keynote address from Professor Maaike Bleeker (University of Utrecht) entitled ‘So Close Yet So Far Away: the Proximity of the Universe’. Conventions of Proximity was co-hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture, and supported by Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. The full schedule can be downloaded here.
Heading for the Horizon: completing miles & miles: From Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 April, 11am to 4pm, we hosted a short open residency from Centre Fellow Karen Christopher and her collaborator Sophie Grodin, in which visitors were invited to engage in observation, conversation, and investigation of their rehearsal process. Karen Christopher (formerly of performance group Goat Island) and Sophie Grodin (recent graduate of Royal Central School of Speech & Drama) work together collaboratively as part of Haranczak/Navarreto devise performance duets. They use bodies in time and place combined with spoken word, to create evocative visual combinations.
Whither Europe? Performance and the ‘Old Continent’ in the long moment of ‘crisis’: On Saturday 9 January, 11am-4pm, the Centre hosted a research day on questions of Europe, theatre and performance. In early 2013, a group of early-career researchers in theatre and performance studies set up the Inside/Outside Europe Research Network. The aim of the network was to study performances of crisis and ‘crisis’ as performance in European countries after the global recession of 2008. As experiences of precarity, inequality, austerity, division, fascism and xenophobia gathered pace in the ‘Old Continent’, we set out to investigate aspects of such phenomena using the tools of our discipline. Some of the results of research carried out by members of the network (mainly in London, Berlin and Athens) appear in the collection of articles Performances of Capitalism, Crises and Resistance: Inside/Outside Europe, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. This event marked the launch of the book. Whither Europe was staged in collaboration with ETRN (European Theatre Research Network).
Love is Still Possible in this Junkie World: On Friday 27 November, 5-6.30pm, the Centre hosted a public conversation and performance from Centre Fellow Martin O’Brien and artist Sheree Rose, on sexuality, love, death, pain and art. Supported by BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality).
Brecht in Translation: Throughout 2015-16, Centre Fellow Phoebe von Heldran a series of workshops on her new translation project, Jae Fleischhacker, a dramatic fragment by Bertolt Brecht, dealing with Chicago’s wheat exchange market at the beginning of the twentieth century – the first translation of this fragment into English. The purpose of the workshops was to invite feedback and exchange on this translation project. The group read newly translated scenes, focussing on particular passages where the linguistic specificities of Brecht’s style present particular challenges to the translator. A group of researchers and students from across the disciplines attended the three workshops.
Fun Palaces 2015: On Sunday 4 October, the Centre hosted events as part of Camden People’s Theatre‘s contribution to the 2015 Fun Palaces festival: A Fun Palace for Grown Ups. These events included rehearsed readings from artists concluding their studies on MA Text and Performance (run by RADA and Birkbeck), a performance from visiting company BARK, and a talk from Philip Hedley, former artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East.
2.30-4.30pm: The Writers’ Group: Rehearsed Readings, Peltz Gallery (also 6pm & 7.30pm at CPT)
Neka Da Costa, Whoopey’s the Musical: A dark comedy that satirizes the nitty gritty of the fast food industry, set in a fictional but recognizable restaurant.
Wafik Doss, Staged Impeachment: A play about a play that never gets played.
Lucinda Everett, Liked: A drama exploring the darker side of the world’s obsession with youtube.
Yuki Sakamoto, The Macaroni War: A story about imagination and its loss and a warning to all ages.
Virginia Smith, My Shrimp and I: An exploration of cultural stereotyping through a one-woman show that intertwines music and words.
Kate Tiernan, Freight: Adventure in a tiny tin tank. A freight carriage holds hostage the hopes of freedom. With lyrical and fiercely poetic language, two characters fight to conceal their judgment and desires in the pursuit of anonymity.
3-4pm: Answer A) BARK School by BARK, G10: Re-realise your potential as a school child in a ridiculous day. Reminisce who you were then, remember who you are now.
2.30-5.30pm: Joan Littlewood: Her Life and Work, G04: Philip Hedley was Joan Littlewood’s assistant director for two years and her successor as artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Philip will give a detailed and rich account of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable and influential UK theatre directors. With lively personal anecdotes, Philip will discuss the context for Joan’s work, her fundamental beliefs about theatre, and her legacy, including her ideas for a Fun Palace.