Feature in Issue 22-1 | Spring 2010

Welcome to the Spring 2010 issue of Total Theatre, in which we herald the start of our third decade in print with a new design. You’ll hopefully be pleased to hear that although we look a little different we remain dedicated, as always, to providing intelligent and accessible insight into contemporary theatre and performance.

There have been numerous occasions in recent times – for example in a discussion group that was part of Improbable’s Devoted and Disgruntled 5: What are we doing about theatre? (see the report at www.devotedanddisgruntled5.blogspot.com) – when issues have been raised about the purpose of theatre criticism, and the challenges of writing about ‘theatre’. Often, points are made about the divide between critics and artists; about the fact that critics hold too much power; and about the need to find new ways to write about theatre, outside of the standard review format.

I feel I need to wave the flag for Total Theatre here, as we have been addressing those very issues over the past two decades.

The first point to note is that we do not agree with or support the traditional divide between artist and critic. Total Theatre’s writers and reviewers are, for the most part, people who also create, produce, or present work themselves. This, we believe, makes Total Theatre the unique publication that it is.

Sometimes these artists critique other artists’ work using the standard model of the ‘review’. After much deliberation on the nature and purpose of ‘reviews’, we have decided that short reviews will now appear on our website at www.totaltheatre.org.uk. This means that reviews will get written and posted soon after the show is seen, providing an instant snapshot of a performance witnessed; and that the pages of the magazine will be freed up for longer critiques, festival round-ups, and other forms of response. We feel that using a website and a print magazine in tandem is ideal, as web and print have different strengths and purposes.

It is also likely on the pages of Total Theatre that critique will be built into a feature article that takes as its starting point a theme, strand of practice, or geographical location (as in Alexander Roberts’ article about Iceland’s theatre scene) that serves as a way in to discussing a number of different pieces of work and issues around the creation of that work. In a very different approach to reportage, Alexander Eisenberg and Nick Wood bring us a centrepage spread that is a visual/ graphic response to Helsinki’s ANTI festival.

Another way that we challenge the usual ‘reviewing’ format is through models of writing such as Being There, which in this issue offers a three-way view on Liz Aggiss’s lecture-performance at British Dance Edition 2010. Liz offers her perspective from the centrepoint; manager/producer Lisa Wolfe reports from her insider viewpoint; and artist-critic Ed Rapley offers his outside eye response.

We see the making, presenting and witnessing of theatre work to be part of a multi-way creative process. Our article celebrating Shunt Lounge offers a fractured reflection in four voices – it would seem odd to us to take anything other than a multi-angled approach to the telling of the story of Shunt Lounge, a project in which the roles of artist, curator, presenter and witness have been allowed to mix and mingle merrily over the years.

The artist’s voice is always to the fore in Total Theatre: no more so than in our Voices feature, with thoughts on Periplum’s latest project, 1000 revolutions per moment from the company’s directors, Claire Raftery and Damian Wright. This issue also includes a self-penned feature from bright young things non zero one, who are hitting the big-time with a show in Barbican’s 2010 bite season.

From the newcomers to the legendary theatre-maker: we are delighted to bring you an exclusive interview with Eugenio Barba, written by the multitasking theatre-maker, director and critic Cassie Werber.

In response to all those agonised and angry discussions about ‘theatre critics’ I’ll say this: Total Theatre Magazine was set up by artists, for artists. It was set up because at the time, 1989, there was little or no reportage on forms such as performance art, experimental theatre, and new circus. We took the view that if you don’t like what the published theatre critics are saying, then find a way to get your own words out there!

We hope that at least some of our words (and pictures) will have something to say to you, and as always welcome your proposals for something different next time round.

This article in the magazine

Issue 22-1
p. 4