Feature in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

As the year, and the decade, draws to a close it feels like an opportune moment not only to look back, but also to ponder on the future.

Ten years ago, the cover of the Winter 1999/2000 issue (Total Theatre Volume 11 Issue 4) featured enterprising and eccentric performance artist La Ribot. She was profiled as an artist appearing in the 2000 London International Mime Festival. Plus ca change! It is great to note that the Mime Fest is still going strong, and in 2010 is presenting shows by equally outrageous and entertaining female performance artists (such as bearded lady Jeanne Mordoj) as part of the eclectic mix of work pulled together under the now-preferred label of Visual Theatre. The Mime Fest is previewed in this issue with an article on Russian mavericks BlackSkyWhite, together with a round-up of key shows.

Back to our 1999 issue and we see an article by David Harradine, of then emerging (now established) company Fevered Sleep, about intimate theatre work performed in homes and other out-of-the-black-box sites – flagging up something that would become an increasingly popular mode of practice in the coming years. There’s certainly an extraordinary number of shows around in 2009 that take the audience out of their seats and in to a very different relationship to the performance. This is reflected in the high number of intimate, immersive or interactive shows shortlisted for the Total Theatre Awards (reported on in this issue).

In the reviews section ten years ago we find many familiar names: Clod Ensemble (also featuring in the current issue, with the company’s Co-Director Paul Clark our Voices subject), Split Britches, David Gale, Station House Opera, DV8, Guy Dartnell, Told By An Idiot, Frantic Assembly, The Cholmondeleys, Forced Entertainment, Complicite – and the first show by a new collective called Shunt. These are some of the artists who form the ‘backbone’ of the theatre work that we have supported over the years. Another familiar name, featured in this current issue with a multi-voiced artists’ diary, is The People Show – going strong for 40 years, and proving that there’s life in the old dog yet!

Absent from our pages in 1999, but firmly established now, are Punchdrunk (founded in 2000) who are reviewed in this issue. I’d hope that they would still be with us ten years hence. And I’d expect new circus stars Ockham’s Razor (previewed as they prepare to launch new show The Mill) to be swinging to ever greater heights over the coming decade.

So gazing into our crystal ball, who else might we expect to be featuring in Vol 31, Winter 2019? Perhaps budding street arts performers Plungeboom, flagged up in our round-up of the Lakes Alive season; or Kindle Theatre, whose bizarre banquet-performance is reviewed here. Perhaps Total Theatre Award winners Beady Eye Productions/ Kristin Fredricksson or The River People or Dafydd James. Perhaps The Fiasco Division, referenced in Absolute Beginners, our regular column written by Total Theatre’s Canny Granny, Laura Lloyd – who in another life is a rising star with The Honourable Society of Faster Craftswomen.

Maybe the names of the artists seen in the flurry of Scratch festivals, Rules & Regs encounters, and studio theatre presentations at Battersea Arts Centre in late 2009 will still be on our lips in ten years time: Non Zero One, Deborah Pearson, Coney, Inua Ellams, subject to _change (creators of Home Sweet Home). Certainly I’d hope to see BAC supported companies like New International Encounter (reviewed) and Blind Summit Theatre (who are presenting new show 1984 over the midwinter season) going from strength to strength. BAC’s work is the subject of a special focus in this edition of Total Theatre Magazine.

I would also love to learn a decade from now that the BAC affiliated project Forest Fringe (reviews section) has inspired other enterprising souls to seize the moment and create wonderful new opportunities for the making and presenting of theatre work.

Who knows where we will be in a decade’s time. Regardless of what’s to come, it is good to be leaving this decade with a feeling that ‘theatre’ – if I can dare to use that word without any qualifiers – is in a pretty good state. There’s exciting times ahead!

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 4