Intersections 2017 – Panel 1

Panel 1: “Active Referencing”

Thursday 19th January – 11:50-13:20 – Embassy Theatre


  1. The Value of Participation in Contemporary Theatre and Performance in the UK (Pilar Fortes Costa)


This paper will explore the value of cultural participation linked with contemporary and socially engaged arts organisations based in the UK, analysing whether the neoliberal frame is changing the way theatre and performance practice engages with the public. Using neoliberalism as the backdrop, I will investigate community based practice by focusing on the agency of participants as a collaborative act (involved in the politics of making it) and on how participatory work might reference and include the public, as well as analysing the effects of cultural polices on community involvement and civic engagement.

This paper will employ a two-way process – whereby the fieldwork informs the theoretical understanding – to start the investigation about how the social, economic and political shift in where the UK is now has been replicated in the applied arts field and has impacted on community based practice. I will draw on theorists such as Harvey (2005), Jackson (2011), Viveiros de Castro (2002), Bishop (2012) and Nicholson (2017) to let political participation and cultural polices chime in by considering the relational aesthetics of artworks presented in a community setting.
I thus aim to explore the term ‘participation’ from the perspective of both the public, participants and practitioners, also using my experience as an antropofágica participant of cultural interventions growing in the north and south of Brazil, where I am originally from. Drawing on a process of putting oneself (or being put) in the place of the other – not taking a position as an outsider, neither insider, but on the border line – I will investigate a few contradictions that might open up the tightest spaces for a researcher to investigate arts response to the recent changing political context of the UK.

Pilar is a theatre-maker, researcher and PhD candidate at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She undertook a Master’s Degree at Queen Mary University of London, during which time she did a placement with People’s Palace Projects. Before that she worked for five years with a radical street theatre company: ‘Tá Na Rua’, based in Rio de Janeiro. She is the artistic director of theatre and performance Group Shakespirados, which is currently developing a project called ‘Water on Earth’. As artistic director, she has also collaborated with companies such as Teatro Extremo (Portugal) and Unfinished Business (UK).


  1. “Should not in greatest arts some scars be found?” The Dramaturgy of the Impolitic in Britain’s Contemporary Cultural Production of Shakespeare (Lucy Tyler)


This paper will explore recent criticisms in the production of Shakespeare plays at both The Globe and RSC. Focusing on the contentious tenure of Emma Rice and her Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Globe, 2016) and the first use of “live motion capture” in Gregory Doran’s The Tempest (RSC, 2016), this paper will consider how new dramaturgies are challenging the normative reference points of canonical drama. Historically, the production of canonical plays has aided in the British establishment’s construction of a British heritage, through which the past is nationalised and memorialised, recuperated, and referenced, where hierarchies are established and marginal histories forgotten (Sierz, 2011). This paper will explore creative decisions, such as Rice’s and Doran’s, that challenge the normative reference points of canonical plays and therefore disrupt the established ‘value’ systems of British cultural production. Using a range of British thinkers who have shaped the way in which ‘value’ has been attributed to British arts, this paper will explore the ways in which British theatre productions have been encoded with ‘value’ and meaning via a process of cultural determinism (Arnold 2009; Read 2002; Henley 2016). This paper will then attend to the rationale for challenging the normative reference points of British theatre in the ways that Rice and Doran have done by exploring new dramaturgies and therefore disrupting the ‘value’ systems that have been applied to British theatre-making since the beginning of the welfare state.


Lucy Tyler is a PhD candidate at CSSD. Her research interests are curatorial and developmental dramaturgy in practice. Her work explores the labour of playmaking and the political frameworks in which theatrical processes operate. Lucy is also Lecturer in Performance Practices at The University of Reading. Before that, she was MA Course Leader in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, where she taught playwriting at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.


  1. Performativity in referencing the performances of everyday life (Saba Zavarei)


When doing a research on performances of everyday life, the people who the study is happening with them, are active agents who can and will repeat or change their behaviour or their perception of their performances now and then. Referencing their experiences to create the analytical reading of them, thus is a very critical act.
Unlike other subjects of studies that are less ephemeral, the performances of everyday life seem precarious to rely upon for making stable conclusion.
Based on my own research experiences with women, in their everyday actions in Tehran, Iran, I will suggest a performative way of referencing that I have created and applied in my own research and practice. For the past few decades with increasing pressure and suppression on women from the patriarchal state, to create spaces of hope and emancipation women have performed the spaces of everyday life in alternative ways. I will argue how gathering this information and referencing their experiences and performances could be very challenging with critical pitfalls such as fixing their behaviour in one rigid form of meaning/writing taking their agency away, which is the opposite of their performative behaviour.
Reflecting on my own experiences, I will then suggest the performative way of referencing in which there is space for change and alternative interpretation, where still the research remains true to those who actively participated. So rather than fixing the participants in specific sociopolitical milieu with expectations and interpretations, it will allow them to trespass what is anticipated from their performances. It is only in this circumstances that a more accurate reading would be possible in a situation where things seem contradictory and most complex.


Saba is an artist and writer, currently based as a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is writing her thesis on everyday performances and public spaces in post-revolutionary Iran. Her artistic practice is mainly interactive and participatory performance and public interventions. She has recently published an article with the Performance Research Journal (Feb 2016) and have presented her paper at the ASTR (American Society of Theatre Research) 2016 conference and also performed in TRANSformance Festival as part of the conference in the USA, in November 2016. She also held an interactive workshop at the Rediscovering the Radical at LIPA in Liverpool in September 2016.