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Title: (Re)constructing political theatre : negotiating discursive and practical frameworks for theatre as an agent for change
Author: Hillman, Rebecca Anne
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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The main aim of this research is to offer a reconceptualisation of the efficacy of live performance for instigating social and political change. In order to do so, it explores a range of practical forms and theoretical contexts for creating political performance in Britain. It also formulates new perspectives and methodologies to encourage and add to the production of political performance for the twenty first century. The perceived failure of the organised Left after the end of the Cold War, and the relativism of postmodern theoretical perspectives, has signalled for many the demise of political theatre. In 2013, the concept of live performance as having efficacy to instigate political change remains contested. Yet in fact, some politically motivated performance has demonstrably facilitated change, and critical frameworks have been developed that account for contemporary performances that hold definitive political stances. Meanwhile, political activism has continued to fluctuate and transform rather than simply to dissipate since 1989. As part of this transformation, activist movements have arguably incorporated and generated philosophies and forms associated with postmodernism, rather than having been straight forwardly defeated by them. Today, Capitalism is once again being resisted with renewed urgency. Meanwhile, theatre practitioners in Britain and elsewhere are harnessing theatre as a tool to fulfil the agitprop mantra: 'educate, agitate, organise'. As the written component of a practice based Ph.D., the arguments contained in this thesis developed out of direct engagement with my research-practice. This was a site-specific performance devised in Reading in 2011 , which considered the impact of current economic policies and political systems on the lives of local people. As well as finding agency in a 'deconstructive' aesthetics associated with postmodern art, the performance also looked back to theatrical forms and methodologies developed by practitioners working in Britain in the 1970s. In light of the successful deployment of such forms and methodologies, and the popular conception that much 1970s practice is outmoded today, this thesis argues for the enduring relevance of agitprop forms specifically. It questions how 'political theatre' has been discursively constructed from the late 1960s-present, and demonstrates how, in combination with other theatrical models, agitprop forms can operate effectively in contemporary contexts. This research theoretically and practically (re)constructs political theatre with a view to the agency of old forms for strengthening new forms of resistance, whilst locating possibilities for politically progressive art in diversity and definitiveness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available