Feature in Issue 15-2 | Summer 2003

In the excellent new Routledge sourcebook Popular Theatre (edited by Joel Schechter), we are reminded that 'Bertolt Brecht turned to cabaret; Ariane Mnouchkine went to the circus; Joan Littlewood wanted to open a palace of fun...’ Whilst many legitimate theatre directors have been fascinated by popular entertainments, for many physical and visual performance-makers, the distinction between so-called 'high' and 'low' art has had little relevance. From Commedia dell'Arte to contemporary street arts, via circus, cabaret and carnival, there has been a continuous exchange of ideas with 'legitimate’ theatre that has meant a healthy two-way process of influence and integration. In this issue of Total Theatre Magazine, we turn our attention to three different aspects of popular theatre: variety, ventriloquism and magic.

Another special feature is a photo-strip from Giovanni Cafagna, whose last book, The Gig, was a photo-journal of life on the road with the street performers The Strangelings. His latest project is The Audience, a web-based book that documents the public response to street arts. We also have a preview of the Elemental project, a collaboration with the British Council in creating a new space for experimentation for UK artists. Back indoors, Pilar Orti notes that not all the experimentation and challenging of boundaries takes place outside of dedicated theatre spaces, in a look at the furore that surrounded Catalan company La Fura dels Baus's XXX at Riverside Studios. Meanwhile, at Tate Modem, Live Culture was a ground-breaking event that brought live art into focus as part of the portfolio of arts offered for consumption by this bastion of contemporary art. Our special feature explores the performances, symposia and durational events that were on offer.

The place of the word in theatre is a topic that continues to be up for discussion. In past features – back issues available from the office, folks! – John Wright has explored the relationship between ‘writing' and 'devising' and ownership of the resulting text. I have looked at the definition of total theatre and Dymphna Callery and Alex Memmikides have explored aspects of the role of the writer in theatre-making. Now comes Helena Thompson's article ‘Long Pause’ which looks specifically at the way words – and silences – are used for theatrical effect.

With reports from the ongoing Butoh festival, reviews from the Brighton Festival and the Circus Space Springboard amongst many others, together with the usual useful listings sections, I'm sure you'll find something to please within. So settle down on the lawn with a glass of Pimms (or a litre of cider if you prefer) and enjoy!

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-2
p. 4