from the cracks in the psyche of culture
theatre practitioners might be better off
of themselves as a despised species
practitioners don't normally think of themselves as a despised
species. But it might just be more useful if they did.
we think of the commotion caused by a cockroach casually appearing
on a dinner plate during an exclusive dinner party or at a
particularly refined and expensive restaurant we can see that its
effect is in no way diminished by the creature being despised. The
cockroach has a penchant for surviving and drawing attention to
itself. It appears between the cracks paying little attention to the
concerns of the dinner guests and just IS. The cockroach at the
dinner table soon reduces the illusion of a disinfected universe to a
more basic proposition. It draws attention to the cracks in the
guests' universe and the brittle veneer over daily experience. And in
a world where some would suggest art should follow market research,
the cockroach might just provide an alternative positive model for
theatre ... all be it: a cockroach theatre.
features of cockroach theatre might include: smallness, flexibility,
multi-skilled across media, efficiency, burnt bridges, clarity of
purpose, ideas driven, creative use of resources, playfulness,
adventurous, risk taking, independence, compelling performance, total
commitment to the art, tenacity, abrasive yet symbiotic with its
audience ... etc. We see these features in bands and comedy acts: and
we might see it more often in theatre of the future. We might also
have observed these characteristics in theatre groups which later
mutated into dinosaurs and disappeared.
dinosaur theatre features specialisation of labour and is very
comfortable with the guests at the official dinner table. Dinosaur
theatre revels in role demarcation with each role jealously guarded.
It is very proficient at lobbying where much of its creative energy
is channelled. It is expensive. And demands high levels of Government
intervention and support. Practitioners lament the growing crises in
theatre and seek to turn back time to previous workable models of
theatre organization and practice. It paradoxically looks to amateur
theatre with a kind of envy as if to say, give us more funding and we
could do that too ...
theatre takes a different view. Problems become opportunities.
Change is a tool: and asset. The essential differences between
theatre and other media are exploited. Like the band or comedy act
which writes and performs its own material, cockroach theatre does
likewise: the creative focus for the work being the heart of
everything that is done. Cockroach theatre operates as a team to
produce original work that grows from within the observations,
talents, desires, and contradictions of the individual members. Work
is tested with audiences. No matter how complex, cockroach theatre
uses the creative tension between writing material and performance in
front of audiences to grow and develop its uniqueness. Rather than
relying on market research, the cockroach theatre is constantly
testing the ground with its own work feeding off success and learning
from its failures. Like the busker, it seeks avenues to exploit its
need to BE what it IS ...
theatre becomes polarized into dinosaur and cockroach, the dinosaur
has become so dependent on the government for its funding: so much
power of life or death has been placed in the hands of bureaucracies,
academia and the many interests being served by government and
community infra-structure ... no wonder that so much skill and
attention has been placed on the whole mechanisms of lobbying and
public relations. While the cockroach will accept government funding,
it is not dependent on it ... the government may be accepted as one
of its many purchasers.
practitioners in the ACT might well use cockroach theatre strategies
in place of the rationalist / lobbying and committee modes so
observable and currently employed with disastrous results. I doubt
that any amount of policy making, research or review of practices
etc. is going to make any difference to the well being of theatre
unless theatre BECOMES, and like the cockroach, simply IS. What we
are seeing now is an art form being bled by a thousand pin pricks.
And the more it is being discussed, written about (like me
pontificating in this article), and subjected to rationalist
(economic or otherwise) debate devoid of reference to issues
contained within the art form, then the more it will be sapped and
leeched of its essential life force; the more practitioners will be
placating each other: seeking reasons for obvious failures while not
wanting to be left behind ... left off the invitation list.
published in MUSE magazine Nov 1995