Why 'A Nation's Theatre'?
Mary Osborn, Programme Co-ordinator, shares the reasons why Artsadmin thought the A Nation's Theatre Festival was an important conversation to be a part of...
As an organisation who both tours work out of London and presents work at our East London Toynbee Studios home, we were excited to be a part of A Nation’s Theatre; a festival of activities across London this spring celebrating the work of over 350 artists, producers and theatres from locations as far-spread as Belfast and Brighton. We were particularly interested at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for venues to take risks on touring work through fear of a lack of a ready-made audience to guarantee box office sales; making it difficult for experimental work or marginal voices to come through.
The majority of artists that we produce, present and support at Artsadmin fall into the liminal spaces of categorisation and defy the traditional idea of 'theatre'. We wanted to curate a programme for A Nation’s Theatre that did the same, inviting artists that subvert and play with the genre in order to question not only geographical hierarchies, but to further interrogate what venues and audiences nationwide are comfortable defining within the theatre bracket. For example, we were excited to invite Cardiff based artist Tim Bromage back to Toynbee after his performance here as part of SPILL Festival of Performance 2013. Drawing on traditions of stage magic, folklore and ritual, Tim has a unique theatrical voice, with performances that tread a thin line between theatre and magic, truth and fiction, stage-craft and séance. Artist and producing collective, Steakhouse Live will also be returning with a special edition Tender Loin #5. Using the loose theatrical format of our Arts Bar and Café, Steakhouse Live will transform the space into something closer to a gig or a gallery than a stage, inviting five artists based outside of London including Nima Sene (Glasgow), Paul Hurley (Bristol) and Vivian Ezugha (Norfolk).
As well as looking at diversity of form within the UK theatre ecology, we wanted to be part of a festival that asks what theatre can tell us about UK politics, devolution and identity. In our first ANT meeting, David Jubb (Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre) explained the initiative with the example of theatre being live-streamed from London venues to regional cinemas, and how we might reverse this flow and expand this hierarchy. We wanted to think about how this devolution is mirrored in our political climate, and Nic Green’s Cock and Bull seemed like the perfect piece to bring this conversation to a head. The piece was devised a year ago on the eve of the General Election, in the epicenter of the SNP landslide and still distant to the shock of a Tory majority. Once carrying hope and now marked by disillusion, the piece questions the dominant voices of politicians who are seen to speak and act on behalf of an entire nation and a people. Nic and fellow Glasgow based artists Rosana Cade and Laura Bradshaw use repetitive voice, sound and movement to exhaust the Conservative Party election campaign speeches, in a performance that highlights the alienation felt by so many in the face of current governmental representations. We were excited to bring this piece to Westminster (or close enough…) on the anniversary of the General Election, and one year into a fiercely estranging government.
Selina Thompson’s interactive installation Race Cards continues to provoke audiences to think about voice and agency. She invites you to answer one of 1000 questions concerning issues of race and identity as well as read responses that have accumulated through a tour around the UK. Starting with a seemingly simple idea, Selina asks us to think about the things we are comfortable or uncomfortable to voice, whilst the quiet and solitary act of reading and writing beckons us to internalise these dialogues and to carefully consider how we position ourselves in relation to language and identity.
We are excited to present this programme of work, which considers diversity in these three strands: geography, form and voice. We hope you can join us, and give your own voice to the A Nation’s Theatre discussions in May.
For the full festival programme visit: anationstheatre.org.uk
To book tickets to the events at Toynbee Studios, select the event below.