Feature in Issue 8-3 | Autumn 1996

We have been thinking a lot about definitions in the office recently. How do we talk about the work we represent? Do we share a common language with practitioners, academics, critics and funding bodies alike? 'Total Theatre' usefully covers the wide range of performance styles that make up our constituency. But what of the terms we use – mime, physical theatre, live art, visual performance, dance theatre – what do we understand by these?

The common denominator lying behind all this work is the physical basis from which it stems. If you turn to the reviews pages you will see we have started to introduce the phrase 'physical based performance’ to describe this work. We like this phrase because it reflects the basic premise that the work is body rather than text based.

In the Arts Council's New Lottery Direction consultation paper the phrase 'New Work' repeatedly occurs. What do they mean? If you do not embrace The Arts Council's terminology you could miss out on vital funding opportunities. Similarly, how can you market your work without describing it in a way everyone understands? We are not interested in definitions because we want to create boxes to neatly fit work into; thinking about definitions is an important gateway to developing a critical language for the work we make. By using specific terms such as 'mime' and 'physical theatre’ generically, we run the risk of weakening their individual meanings.

At its AGM in January 1997 MAG will host a discussion of what 'New Work' means in the context of physical based performance. Meanwhile, Total Theatre continues, we hope, to provide a valuable forum for the exchange of debate and information amongst physical based performance practitioners.

This article in the magazine

Issue 8-3
p. 3