Interventions, Autumn 2019

Interventions 29.3 marks the second iteration of Contemporary Theatre Review’s Postscripts initiative. The response to the initial invitation has been overwhelming and demonstrates the need for a space outside the temporalities of academic publication for flexible and responsive writing, documentation, and theorizing.

Three of the pieces in this issue are strongly underpinned by artistic practices and their documentation.

Margaret Ames reflects on the power of kinaesthetic action as a means of expressing emotion, developing embodied knowledge, and claiming cultural agency. Ames’s work is informed by the definition of kinesthesia proposed by a dance ethnographer Deirdre Sklar, who argues that kinetic and sensory processes underlie our thinking. It is also grounded in the practice of Ames’s Welsh dance-theatre company, Cyrff Ystwyth, which works with local people, including people with learning or physical disabilities. The company has developed a unique approach to dramaturgy and choreography, which challenges ‘[h]egemonic distribution of inclusion,’ that is an expectation that disabled performers will adapt to non-disabled performers. In Cyrff Ystwyth’s practice, performers with disabilities offer a repertoire of gestures to performers without disabilities. This allows the company to think together the concepts of action and intention through kinesthesia, while drawing on the potential of live performance to produce novel cultural structures and ideas.

Jennie Klein presents a new interview with artists hancock & kelly (Richard Hancock and Traci Kelly), which takes the reader into the process and performance of An Extraordinary Rendition. This new performance was presented at the IN>TIME Festival in Chicago in early 2019 as part of the exhibition Goat Island Archive: we have discovered the performance by making it. hancock & kelly were among the nine artists invited to respond to one of the legendary Chicago collective’s pieces, in this case, 1987’s Soldier, Child, Tortured Man. The resulting piece, An Extraordinary Rendition, deals with themes of spectacularized masculinity, athletics, militarization, and war, and is illustrated in this interview with substantive documentation.

In her post-script ‘Playing Politics: Versatile Operations in Site-Adaptive Performance’, Melanie Kloetzel elaborates on her print article in detailing potentialities of her proposed shift, from the terms of site-specific and site-adaptive performance, towards what she terms ‘siteversatile’ approaches. Reflecting on the continually evolving processes of creating the dance theatre work It began with watching (2016-), Kloetzel describes how versatility might become not only a condition, requirement, or operative of neoliberal orders (such as those underpinning festival circuits), but may actually prompt and enable the critique of conditions of precarity for artists and others when harnessed strategically and self-reflexively. Through a detailed account of the various practical and critical techniques involved in creating the work, Kloetzel explores the political efficacy of versatility ‘both as a concept and a methodology’.

Post-scripts also offer authors a chance to return to ideas addressed in print articles for Contemporary Theatre Review in light of more recent social change. In Sarah Bartley’s case, this return was galvanised by a shocking report by United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston published this year, which revealed that one fifth of the UK’s population live in poverty. Alston noted that, as a result of government economic policies since 2010, the glue holding society together “had been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.” In light of this report, Bartley highlights how theatre company Clean Break has addressed women’s experiences of poverty and economic dependency in the UK, both onstage and through the practicalities of theatre-making. Vignettes drawn from interviews with Anna Herrmann, Clean Break’s co-artistic director, and Katherine Chandler, writer of their 2016 production Spent, demonstrate the centrality of these issues to the company’s work. For Bartley, the increasing importance of representing women in poverty onstage demands nuanced attention to the labour implicit in applied theatre and participation.

Finally, Kirsty Sedgman gives a pre-script to her forthcoming article in CTR 29.4, “On Rigour in Audience Research.” Demonstrating Interventions’ possibility for responsive writing, Sedgman engages in a critical dialogue with Liz Tomlin’s new book, Political Dramaturgies and Theatre Spectatorship, published in June 2019. Sedgman seeks to question the proposed divide between spectatorship theory and qualitative “empirical” audience research. She suggests that the subjectivity of the researcher is at the heart of both forms of research–and that the differences are not as great as they might initially seem. The piece potentially opens a dialogue to be continued in future issues.

Looking to the future, Interventions 29.4 is organised around relationships between temporality, politics and activist methods. Contributors across intersections of scholarly and artistic practices and activisms speak, in their own ways, from or to times of political turmoil. It includes new performance documentation, post-scripts which accompany articles in the CTR print journal, and a newly translated work. The collection of a combination of forms and voices is informed partly by ongoing conversations around how Interventions might continue to be shaped as a discursive space, and issues of visibility and representation. This involves the ongoing consideration of seeking continuity with the print journal (perhaps most clearly represented in the post-script initiative), and making use of its different possibilities which extend beyond the strictures of the academy and academic publishing.

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