Feature in Issue 17-1 | Spring 2005

Welcome to Total Theatre 2005. If this is your first encounter with the magazine, congratulations on finding your way to the only national UK publication that celebrates and promotes innovative contemporary theatre and physical/visual performance. We are published by Total Theatre Network, which exists to support and advocate for the artform ‘total theatre’. Our definition of ‘total theatre’ is fluid, but our remit includes physical and devised theatre, visual performance, live art, street arts, circus, mime, new music theatre and puppetry.

If you are a regular reader, you’ll see that it’s new boots and panties both for the magazine and for the organisation that publishes it. You’ll notice that we have a brand new design for the magazine – and behind the scenes, Total Theatre Network has a new director, Felicity Hall, who’ll be steering the mother ship from membership organisation to national development agency over the coming year.

Total Theatre will continue to be the face and voice for the myriad performance forms that we represent. That artists should be allowed the freedom of personal expression is something that should go without saying in 2005. Yet we have started the year with a controversy that has brought issues of censorship and artistic freedom to the fore with the closure of Behzti (Dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

There has been an oddly reticent quality to many of the public statements of support for the artists and venue – perhaps mindful of the proposed ‘incitement to religious hatred’ bill. Total Theatre would like to take an unequivocal stand in support of the letter circulated by Birmingham Rep which said: ‘… We particularly deplore the stance of those community and religious leaders of whatever faith who have condemned the production of this play, misrepresented it in clear ignorance of its intent and content, but have not condemned those who have used their faith as an excuse for hooliganism…The violent abuse of power to silence the individual in a community is one of the main themes of this writer’s play. It is a sad irony therefore that the violent actions of some of the protesters have actually only served to confirm the play’s relevance to us all.’ I have not seen Behzti, but this is not the point, Whether I personally like the play or not, whether I am offended or not has no bearing on Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s right to self-expression as an artist. The inaction in the face of the Fatwa delivered to Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses is a disgrace that stills casts a shadow over this country – it is imperative that intimidation cloaked as religious sensitivity is never allowed to happen and that all artists and supporters of the arts unite in their rejection of such intimidation and oppression.

We hope you enjoy our new-look Total Theatre Magazine – as always your comments and feedback welcome to the e-mail address below.

This article in the magazine

Issue 17-1
p. 3