Feature in Issue 17-4 | Winter 2005

We're drawing to the end of 2005, so it's an apt time to reflect on the past year of physical and visual theatre and performance. It's a year that has seen a number of interesting developments.

We've witnessed the artform that we have supported for the past two decades – called variously mime, physical theatre, visual theatre, multi-discipline performance or total theatre depending who you speak to – move ever more firmly into mainstream practice. Shunt are now supported by the National Theatre, who have also presented Improbable, Complicite and Kneehigh Theatre over the past year – and it is interesting to note that Shunt are continuing to operate from their Shunt Vaults railway arches base with the support of NT – so the nation of a National Theatre that is not exclusively shackled to a building has emerged.

And this is how it should be. Theatre outside of theatre buildings has been one of the strongest strands of practice in 2005, as seen at the British Council Showcase at Edinburgh Festival Fringe that included work presented in a house (Curious, On The Scent), a car (Hush Productions, A Mobile Thriller), Debenhams department store (Grid Iron, The Devil's Larder) and the City Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (dreamthinkspeak, Don't look Back).

Many of this year's Total Theatre Award winners (including the aforementioned dreamthinkspeak and Grid Iron productions) were shows presented outside of regular theatre spaces, or in the case of fellow Award winners Kazuko Hohli's Evidence for the Existence of Borrowers and Station House Opera's Roadmetal Sweetbread, presented inside a venue but investigating the hidden corners backstage rather than confining themselves to the stage area. See our feature on the Awards in this issue for full details of these and other Award-winning shows.

The ever-growing body of work in 'non-theatre’ sites has been documented in the past years’ issues of Total Theatre, and this continues in this issue (the last of 2005) with a batch of features which in their very different ways highlight performance work that mostly takes place outside dedicated theatre and art spaces. As these features cover work in the UK, in mainland Europe and in America, we can see this as a worldwide movement.

But this is not to say that a good old fashioned trip to the theatre can't provide the best in experimental contemporary physical and visual performance, as can be seen at the London International Mime Festival in January, which will kick off 2006 with a programme that proves that good theatre can happen anywhere, even on a stage.

This article in the magazine

Issue 17-4
p. 2