On Going On: Sustaining Life in Theatre

This post was contributed by Maria Patsou, PhD student, Birkbeck Department of English and Humanities who attended the One-day symposium, Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, 5 June 2015

Rosemary Lee discusses the intersections of work and life in her dance practice

Rosemary Lee discusses the intersections of work and life in her dance practice

This one-day symposium came at the end of a year’s exploration of desire in theatre at the Birkbeck Centre of Contemporary Performance. The intention of the symposium was to extend desire to ideas of support, wellbeing, welfare and overall sustainability of self and others from multiple angles.

The day was devised in the following sections:

It concluded with a Key Note Dialogue between Professor Alan Read and David Slater, on their community theatre work during the 80s at Rotherhithe.

Representing minority voices

Lobel’s and O’Brien’s autobiographical practice on physical illness highlighted the artist’s survival through presenting difficult material, utilising the audience’s negative and positive responses and voicing the unspoken.

D’Souza covered questions of empowerment and disempowerment, by narrating his relationship with theatre from an early age and focused on his experience of enabling others as a member of the RADA audition panel. In a similar autobiographical manner, Beau’s talk focused on the importance of performance for his survival, his relationship to enabling others, and the value of narrative in representing minority voices, a recurring theme of the day.

Questions arose on the separation between artist and human, performer and audience, and the ways we connect to each other. The value of obstacles and doing work in the community were the focal point of Lee’s and Shah’s presentation.

Lee discussed being sustained from the knowledge of creating something valuable for the society, and Shah explored thriving through disappointment, and utilising negative feelings on improving and going on.

Theatre in the community

During the second part of the day, Green examined the role of the producer in the theatre and the intricacies of surviving and controlling oneself. Wookey presented her work as an artist and entrepreneur and discussed finding strength to go on from within community, which was a common theme in Paul’s presentation as well, while Fleming presented the union’s efforts in giving people a voice and thus sustaining artists.

David Slater (left) and Alan Read (right) discuss their work in Rotherhithe Theatre Workshop

David Slater (left) and Alan Read (right) discuss their work in Rotherhithe Theatre Workshop

The Key Note Dialogue delivered by Alan Read and David Slater, complemented recurring themes about the place of theatre in the community and the importance of the community’s critique and concentrated on theatre as a mirror of societal change.

Perseverance and willingness to share were some of the day’s conclusions, as well as perceiving artist and human as one, and recognising performance as inextricably linked to its surroundings, in a community where each individual plays an instrumental part on sustaining and enabling themselves and others.

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