• 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 2016-17, we hosted these sessions, which addressed our theme for the year, transmission:
    • Thursday 2 March, 4-5.30pm, G10: Nobuko Anan (Birkbeck): ‘Bowie and Boys’ Love’.
    • Thursday 26 January, 4-5.30pm, 106: Catherine Silverstone (Queen Mary, University of London): ‘Temporal Listening: HIV and AIDS and Karen Finley’s Written in Sand (2013-15)’
    • Thursday 24 November, 4-5.30pm, Malet Street: Leah Sidi (Birkbeck): ‘The Politics of Transmission and Transmitting Politics: The Belarus Free Theatre’s 4.48 Psychosis
  • Theatre Conversation: ‘Sordid Ironies and the Short-Fingered Vulgarian: Alison Jackson’s Mental Images of Donald Trump’: On Thursday 22 June, 2-4pm, we welcomed Tony Perucci (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). From the beginning of his 2016 campaign for the US presidency, Donald Trump has employed the strategy of ‘gaslighting’ the American public – willfully challenging their sense of what is ‘fact’ and what is ‘fiction’. As part of her Mental Images series, British photographer Alison Jackson staged scenes with a Trump lookalike of then-candidate Trump in numerous compromising situations. Depicting images of behaviour that would be disqualifying of any other politician, Jackson utilizes the ‘seeming to be real’ to challenge the viewer’s voyeuristic desire to ‘expose’ Trump’s misogyny and racism. As the strategy of exposure continues to be politically ineffective, Jackson’s photographs of the ‘in fact a fiction’ creates an affective charge that performatively constructs a politics of ressentiment focused not merely towards Trump but towards the systemic problems of neoliberal capitalism. Tony Perucci is a scholar-artist based in the US, where he is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His publications include the books Paul Robeson and The Cold War Performance Complex(Michigan, 2012) and On the Horizontal: Mary Overlie and the Viewpoints (Michigan, forthcoming). This Theatre Conversation was co-hosted by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and BiGS (Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality).
  • Bill Gaskill – symposium, discussion, celebration: On Saturday 20 May we staged a day-long symposium devoted to exploring the work of Bill Gaskill. Bill (William) Gaskill was one of the most influential theatre directors in post-war UK theatre. He helped define the mission of the Royal Court in its early days and directed many celebrated productions for the Royal Court, the National Theatre and the RSC. He was also a dedicated teacher, mentor and friend to many writers and directors such as Max Stafford-Clark, Peter Gill and Nadia Latif. Theatre artists, critics and scholars discussed Bill Gaskill’s work and influences in a series of talks over the day, convened by Birkbeck’s Rob Swain and David Eldridge. Contributors included Peter Gill, Professor Dan Rebellato, Nicholas Wright, Max Stafford-Clark, Wunmi Mosaku, Christopher Hampton, Ken Cranham and Nadia Latif. You can hear a podcast of the first panel discussion here.
  • Theatre Scratch Night: On Tuesday 16 May, as part of Arts Week 2017, students from our theatre and creative writing programmes – ranging from undergraduate to PhD level – shared their work in progress. The evening included the first showing of several short new plays. You can see a photo gallery of this event here.
  • Andy Smith: dematerialising theatre: On Monday 15 May, as part of Arts Week 2017, we welcomed theatre-maker Andy Smith. For the last fifteen years, both alone and in collaboration with Tim Crouch (An Oak TreeAdler & Gibb), Andy Smith has been involved in creating a large body of work.  He refers to this as a ‘dematerialised theatre’ – a theatre that attempts to do more with less. This talk reviewed some of the principles of the practice, and explores some of its origins. Andy read and discussed some examples of his work. You can hear a podcast of the talk here.
  • Theatres of Contagion: Infectious Performance: On Thursday 11 and Friday 12 May, we hosted an international conference exploring themes of contagion and infection in performance and across disciplines, asking: how have theatre and performance represented, examined or been implicated in the transmission and circulation of medical and psychological conditions? How has our understanding of these relationships and phenomena changed over time, across cultures, including via developments in interdisciplinary practice and inquiry? Scholars and artists from across the world gave presentations addressing contexts from the medieval period to the contemporary, and keynote lectures and performances were given by Bridget Escolme (QMUL), Dickie Beau, David Slater and Entelechy Arts, Stephen Frosh (Birkbeck), Richard P. Mann (Leeds), Emily Senior (Birkbeck) Matthew Weait (Portsmouth), and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (Oxford). Download abstracts and biographies here.
  • No Way Out: Theatre as a Mediatised Practice: On Thursday 20 April, we hosted the first day of No Way Out: Theatre as a Mediatised Practice, a two-day TaPRA Performance & New Technologies Working Group Interim Event which took place on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 April 2017. The event was organised and convened by Maria Chatzichristodoulou (LSBU) and Seda Ilter (Birkbeck). Mediatisation – the increasingly pervasive influence of new media technologies in the form of social institutions and ideological apparatuses on society, culture and consciousness since the late twentieth century – has radically shaped our everyday lives and relationships. Mediatisation as a social and cognitive phenomenon has changed the way theatre and performance are produced, shaped, performed and perceived. This shift has led to a state where there is nothing left outside of mediatisation. No Way Out featured two keynote speeches – Professor Matthew Causey (Trinity College) on Thursday 20 April 2017 at Birkbeck, and Professor Andy Lavender (Surrey) on Friday 21 April 2017 at LSBU. The day hosted at Birkbeck also featured two panels – the first on ‘post-digital resistance’, and the second sharing new postgraduate scholarship. Speakers included Rosemary Klich (Kent), Stella Keramida (Independent), Aneta Mancewicz (Kingston), Tarryn Li-Min Chun (Michigan), Annette Balaam (Bristol), Benjamin Monk (Kent), and artist-researchers from Arte Total Cia. The day closed with a provocation from Professor Janis Jefferies (Goldsmiths).
  • Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs: On Friday 3 & Saturday 4 March we hosted a symposium investigating how practitioners in a range of settings work in pairs. Marking the end of artist Karen Christopher’s long-term duet series The Difference Between Home and Poem, the symposium asked: why do people so often work in pairs? What is the significance of working in pairs? And what is unique to the duo as a form? Practitioners from the fields of visual art, dance, spoken word, theatre and performance, and researchers studying how artists live and work together presented their work, and two new work-in-progress performances were shared – Tin Can People, The Katie & Pip Project and The Duet by Marcus Orlandi.  Co-hosted with Haranczak/Navarre Performance Projects, and supported by Generic Skills Funding via Corkscrew: practice-based/led research at Birkbeck. Presented at Birkbeck School of Arts and Camden People’s Theatre.
  • Theatre Conversation: Shirotama Hitsujiya: On Friday 10 February, we welcomed Japanese artist Shirotama Hitsujiya to speak about her work. Japanese pop culture is filled with images of girls, from kawaii (“cute”) Hello Kitty to fighting girls in anime, and to eroticised girls in products targeting male consumers. In this talk, Shirotama Hitsujiya discussed her company YUBIWA Hotel’s portrayals of girls, in relation to these girls in pop culture, and contextualised her work in the contemporary Japanese performing arts scene. Based in Tokyo, Shirotama Hitsujiya is a female playwright, director, performer, and Artistic Director of a company, YUBIWA Hotel, known for its “girlie” performance. In 2006, she was chosen as one of the “100 Japanese Women Acclaimed by the World” by Newsweek Japan. She is also one of the founding members of the Asian Women’s Performing Arts Collective.
  • Politicians and Other Performers: On Friday 20 January we staged a symposium exploring performance and political culture. Politics has long been acknowledged as a theatrical arena in which politicians perform their roles. But with the growth of marketing, public relations and celebrity culture in the 20th and 21st centuries, and developments in mass culture and social media, the connection between politicians and performers seems more intractable, and often confusing, than ever before. It is against this backdrop that the day-long event asked: how might interpreting politicians and their work through some of the practices and concepts established in theatre and performance studies help us to better understand contemporary political life?  We heard from scholars across disciplines, and the day finished with a screening of the film dramatisation of Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon (dir. Ron Howard, 2008). The papers presented were as follows:
    • The Leinster House Look: Mary Robinson and the Craft of Femininity,Aoife Monks
    • Mending Speech: Glenda Jackson on and off script, Emma Bennett and Ella Finer
    • ‘Scotland’s Siren: “The Most Dangerous Woman in Politics”?, Maggie Inchley
    • Turn! Turn! Turn!, Rachel Cockburn
    • Just Theatre? Rethinking the Significance of Politicians’ Performances in Representative Democracy, Julia Peetz
    • Maryam Rajavi: Propaganda Queen and/or President in Waiting?, Alinah Azadeh
    • ‘The swaggerers were in the ascendency’: performative masculinity as political strategy in post-conflict Northern Ireland, Alexander Coupe
    • Boys Don’t Cry, Mark Blacklock
    • Anatomy of a ‘babyface’: the body performances of Justin Trudeau and Sami Zayn, Broderick V. Chow
    • ‘Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor’: The performative disruptions of Rob Ford, Scott Rodgers
    • Jonathan Lethem, Amnesia Moon and Donald Trump, Joe Brooker
    • Facing Reality: Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card, Louise Owen

    Dramaturgy Now: On Tuesday 25 October we hosted a Theatre Conversation exploring the practice of dramaturgy. The dramaturg is an increasingly significant figure in UK theatre but the role of the dramaturg is often misunderstood. In this talk, dramaturg Hanna Slattne drew on her own work to discuss a wide range of dramaturgical processes and relationships. Hanna is one of the UK’s most experienced dramaturgs and theatre makers, specialising in new work, new writing and cross art form collaboration and with extensive experience in mentoring and facilitating artists in their development processes. In autumn 2016, she won the Kenneth Tynan Award.

    Brecht in Translation: during September and October 2016, Centre Fellow Phoebe von Held and Matthias Rothe (University of Minnesota) staged further workshops to develop their translation project, Jae Fleischhacker, a dramatic fragment by Bertolt Brecht, dealing with Chicago’s wheat exchange market at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is the first translation of the text and it will be published in a new volume of Brecht’s fragments in 2017 by Bloomsbury.