This issue of Interventions looks ahead to the UK General Election on 7 May 2015 and accompanies a newly published Special Edition of the print journal on ‘Electoral Theatre’. The forum builds on ‘The Road to Voting: an interdisciplinary study of the aesthetic and affective dimensions of voting’: an AHRC-funded project led by Stephen Coleman and Vanalyne Green that addressed the experiential perspectives of voters. Under the guest editorship of Stephen Bottoms and Brenda Hollweg, the print journal edition considers how personal narratives, values and affective experiences shape what it means to vote and how we vote. As Bottoms notes in his introduction, it approaches theatre about electoral politics, but it also approaches politics as a kind of theatre – for instance, by exploring the social drama of elections and dramaturgical strategies of address deployed by political parties, and performative participation and affective investment in the act of voting. This issue of Interventions responds by presenting interviews with makers of theatre about electoral politics, democracy and demography, and includes pieces that offer very personal reflections from theatre makers and scholars on political commitment, nostalgia and hope.
Apathy and disenchantment among the electorate are key themes in a ‘Parallel Interview with Jonathan Petherbridge from London Bubble and Tom Bowtell from Coney’. Both London Bubble and Coney have been involved in the making of very recent work that reflects on voting in electoral democracies – at a time when the comedian Russell Brand tapped a popular nerve among a disenchanted electorate by renouncing the current electoral paradigm and refusing to vote. Marilena Zaroulia & Philip Hager’s curated feature ‘Acts of Voting: a Lexicon’ similarly explores alternatives to the current electoral paradigm, but it also celebrates the achievements of electoral democracies in Europe. Echoing a device used in an earlier edition of CTR, this ‘lexicon’ brings together twenty six theatre and performance scholars who were each asked to reflect on the act of voting by offering a keyword, a website and a brief text. What emerges is a plurality of perspectives on voting and cultures and countercultures of politics in Europe. Representing a plurality of perspectives also plays an important role in a short film made by Laura Bissell and David Overend, which complements their document in the print edition on the Scottish Independence Referendum, which was held in September 2014. In a series of interviews with Scottish theatre and performance makers, as well as arts policy consultant Christine Hamilton, Bissell and Overend’s film addresses the importance of political investment in the practice of democracy, as well as the impassioned off-shoots that grow out of and occasionally question an expressed political commitment. Finally, this issue of Interventions features an interview with Rimini Protokoll focusing on their 100% City (2008-) project. In this interview, Daniel Koczy and Rimini Protokoll tease out some of the ambitions and tensions that accompany the staging of an actual demographic – a complex body that promises, but also inherently resists, the accomplishment of a progressive politics that serves all those who participate in a democratic process.
As I write this introduction, the Dissolution of the UK Parliament has taken place and the campaign buses have started to make their way across the country to rally votes in a period of uncertainty ahead of the royal summoning of a new parliament on 18 May. The spectacle of political culture is ever-present in a string of staged media events as leaders and their parties vie for the electorate’s attention, trust and vote. However, the cathartic moment in an unfolding social drama seems likely to be delayed as political contenders scrabble not only for seats, but potential alliances in the formation of a coalition government both before, and after, polling day. Ahead of the count, political futures are imagined, dreamt and debated; it is a moment of hope, perhaps, or profound concern and anxiety; it is an affectively resonant moment that concerns all those who choose to vote, and, more broadly, all those who will be affected by the results on polling day. All four contributions to this issue of Interventions engage in some way with the tensions that exist between concern, anxiety and hope in electoral democracies, and especially how voting makes us feel: as audiences, as citizens, as outsiders, and as voters. As with all issues of Interventions, your comments are welcome. And we hope you enjoy the issue!
– Adam Alston