Feature in Issue 20-3 | Autumn 2008

As this edition of Total Theatre Magazine hits the presses, a new stage version of West Side Story opens in London. In her review in the Guardian newspaper, Lyn Gardner comments on the contemporary relevance of Steven Sondheim’s lyrics – in particular, the feisty America which voices the doubled-edged view of the land of plenty from the perspective of its Puerto Rican immigrants.

Viewpoints of and from the Americas feature strongly in this issue, which highlights work that crosses borders and questions cultural assumptions.

Of course, Total Theatre Magazine always has a strong internationalist element. The work that we champion – physical/devised and visual theatre, live art, circus and street arts – crosses boundaries of language or culture, and many of the companies we feature are ensembles or collectives embracing many nations.

But what we are highlighting here is something more: it is work that takes an investigation of cultural identity as its subject matter, work that challenges perceptions of culture or ethnicity: or work that brings artforms or modes of practice from different cultures together in new ways.

Take, for example the Zecora Ura / Para Active Urban Dolls Project collaboration Hotel Medea, featured in this issue. Yes, it is an international initiative, involving creators, producers, and supporters from the UK and Brazil, with a team of performers drawn from around the world. But the reason we are particularly keen to include this project is because of its subject matter (the ‘estrangement’ of Medea and Jason) and the way that the work has been made (bringing together many disparate practices from different parts of the world).

Zecora Ura’s partners Para Active have strong links to another featured company, La Pocha Nostra, a collective that works under the leadership of ethno-techno guru Guillermo Gómez-Peña, with an ongoing mission to use performance to challenge presumptions about cultural heritage, and to redefine the brown body as it is viewed onstage.

La Pocha Nostra have limbs and branches spreading throughout the world. One of their associates is Rajni Shah, a UK artist of Anglo-Asian heritage who in previous work has addressed the resonances of that heritage. In her new work Dinner With America, she gets her teeth into her relationship with the US: Who is America and what is she?

Looking in the other direction, from the USA to the UK is Baba Israel, our Voices subject. He shares his thoughts on a childhood growing up in the legendary Living Theatre, and his current work in hip hop theatre – a from that breaks many of the cultural divides entrenched in American (and UK) society.

Elsewhere in the magazine, we meet the still mis-behaving Amy Saunders; hear from creative lighting designer Katharine Williams; and have a number of reports from festivals and showcases in the UK and elsewhere.

As always, there’s news and previews – and our hefty selection of reviews include Mayfest in Bristol, Brighton Festival and the Sacred season at Chelsea Theatre.

We hope you enjoy this issue of Total Theatre Magazine, and welcome your comments and suggestions for future content.

This article in the magazine

Issue 20-3
p. 4