Friday, December 19, 2014

2014: theatre + art in europe

As your correspondent remains plonked - or to make the German joke on which the title of the blog is based, 'stück' - for the moment at his dependable desk in Berlin, trying to make sense of the year while hastily scrawling out some last-minute tidying up, he got to thinking. 'I should probably try to put some things on records about this mess of a year, and to bring everything together into some kind of literary and contextual point'.

Periods of reflection are not my thing, being closely linked with the narcissism of the age we live in. I prefer to make my response through the work - actively, and now, not before or after. This way, I might remain close with my objectives in theatre, which I attempt to articulate in writing and practice. These build together like a complex, multi-layered picture of that which might be called my perspective. It may not seem significant, but it's cherished because in some ways - as an artist comes to understand - it's all I ever really owned.

I traveled much more than I expected this year, engaging with culture and to various degrees reporting on festivals or other events in Baku, Terni, Edinburgh, London, Venice, Cardiff, and Exeter. That list could have been longer, but for some rejections based occasionally on pretty questionable grounds, mostly to do with my inability to effectively 'brand' myself, 'compete effectively' in the 'marketplace for art' or to employ a recognisable strategy that people could relate to. Whatever. I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing a lot of theatre in the UK this year, so much of the below is skewed by an unusually large UK influence, although counterbalanced by the continental melting pot of Berlin. I just want to quickly note that all of the places I have been - including Azerbaijan - were reached without flying. I have now not flown since early 2013, and only then because there was no other way to get from Pakistan to Iran vaguely safely at the time I needed to travel. Somewhat unexpectedly, this choice has been met with an unusual amount of fear and anxiety, at least from first-world counterparts. Make what you want of that.

When 'reviewing the reviews', my impression, broadly speaking, is that European Theatre is symbolically representing, in a very anxious way, the entrance of an age of dangerous new fascism being masked by a illusion of capital wealth built from the 90's onwards. Climate Change hangs over all of this, with much of the challenge for art and theatre located in its potential to engage the nihilism that story after story about melting icecaps, new scientific research indicating things moving much faster than previously thought, and failed talks throwing down the gauntlet to Western Culture. Much of my recent argument has been concerned with the effects of this on a humanitarian level, and looking over the year's writing, both my writing and practice isolate this as a key theme.