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New Adventures in Performance – Issue 3 – September 2019

This is our third edition of New Adventures in Performance, and once again it is an eclectic mix of work, both old and new. And looking at these contributions I am struck by how they seem to engage with the idea of longevity, of the problem of time and perhaps the challenge of documentation itself.

In the UK, unlike mainland Europe, experimentation has typically been seen as the preserve of the young. As a result, we have generally missed out on the mature well-funded experimentation of artists like Bausch, Brook, Kantor and Grotowski or more recently of Fabre, Lauwers and Castellucci. Whereas in Europe the avant-garde has always been seen as a career destiny/destination, in the UK it has been typically patronized as being of ‘the fringe’ (damn you Edinburgh!) and as part of the landscape of alternative theatre.  In short, it was something you did before you got a proper job in a proper theatre.  Despite this, however, individual directors and companies have made work that span decades and this edition reflects some of the work made those companies that have somehow managed to survive the vagaries of the UK arts funding system

PEEP SHOW by Benchtours

Benchtours was a bunch of Paris trained (Lecoq/Gaulier), Edinburgh based artists who made some great work in Scotland in the 90s and 00s. Peepshow won the award for best production at Glasgow Mayfest in 1997, and was immersive before the word wore itself out. You can currently see the creative output of the same people, now making work at The Occasion.

LAST SUPPER by Reckless Sleepers

Reckless Sleepers are, with Forced Entertainment, one of the great survivors of the explosion of European inflected performance-theatre which seemed briefly to thrive in the UK in the 1980s. Longevity is an important factor in terms of how work matures and The Last Supper, an extract of which is shown here, is mature work from a company which you should try to catch if you can.

30X3 by Bodies In Flight

As part of the celebration of Bodies in Flight’s 30 years of making performance, video artist Tony Judge, a long-time collaborator, was commissioned to make this montage d­rawing together archival video and still images, original texts and sound-scores from the company’s work since 1989, spanning theatre and screen-based work, site-specific and participatory performance.

In this extract of a 30-minute work, Judge re-imagines the documentary material across three screens, exploring the multiple media and perspectives inherent in Bodies in Flight’s approach to performance and its persistence as live event in an increasingly digital age.

GREENHAM 101 by Brave New Worlds

Brave New Worlds are, by comparison, a young company. The work is visually stunning and highly political. Costume based, they reflect the way in which costume is being re-understood as a primary element on the stage space. Theorists like Donatella Barbieri are making us rethink how we use costume and a new wave of gender polemicists are queering costume and gifting performance makers with a new vocabulary with which to understand costume on the stage (or in relation to any other space).