The cultural geographies of community theatre
Against a backdrop of growing interest in performance geographies and
performative notions of embodiment and social identity, this thesis critically
examines the geographies of 'community theatre' (or 'theatre in the
community'). Drawing on in-depth qualitative research, the study is
concerned to analyse the forms of 'community' presumed in and produced
through the performances of community theatre companies in London. It
focuses in particular on detailed case studies of three companies - London
Bubble, Outside Edge and Tamasha - which were chosen to examine how
different engagements with the notion of 'community' are made through
performance and practice.
This thesis demonstrates how practices of community theatre have been
positioned marginally to that of mainstream and established theatre. Through
the empirical analysis, it examines both the opportunities and contradictions
that an engagement with the discourse and practice of 'community' brings for
community theatre companies. It also illustrates how 'theatre in the
community' companies mobilise themselves in ways which may be both
subversive, democratic and powerful.
Engaging with forms of performative art that work with ideas of community
and notions of communality articulated through performance, the thesis helps
to rectify the absence of geographic research on the social spatial constitution
of the arts. In so doing, it seeks to contribute to emergent understandings of
the social and cultural geographies of performance.